Another fantastic week…

Another week has flown right on by us, and what a fantastic one it was!

Playdates, therapies, trips to the park, walks to the duck pond, swimming, lil girl smiles, big boy steps and a million other special moments.

We are headed out to NJ tonight for our first of two weekends in my homeland. This weekend, we will be staying at my dad’s house. We are looking forward to Nana and PopPop getting some time with their youngest grandkids and visits from my friend Allison as well as Aunt Alice. Allison lives in Florida and has yet to meet even Zack! And she’s got a handsome lil man (talk in ’bout the baby, sorry Mike) I can’t wait to get my hands on! And Chochie is just dying to get her hands and eyes on Miss Addie.

Next weekend, we are headed to the southern part of the state (Bruce Springsteen!) for a wedding and family get-together. And Zack is the ring bearer!

I am just cherishing this summer… Here’s a glimpse at our last week… Happy weekend!

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Family reunion, Zee style

Scott’s family does family reunions like professionals, like in the movies. There are annual get-togethers, sometimes the only time the family really sees one another for 365 days. There are hugs and smiles to remind an attendee that this is a rare occasion, but from then on out, everyone just fits seamlessly with the cousins and uncles at the table next to them as if not a day has gone by this close-knit group.

Scott’s paternal grandfather is the fourth of nine children and all but one of them was there this past weekend. Each of the nine branches of this long and loving family tree was at least partially represented. Updates were given (in birth order) by each family to bring everybody else up to speed.

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I’ve been to three of these reunions, but this year’s was by far my favorite. Perhaps as my own individual family grows, I realize more and more the importance of one’s roots, the continuation and understanding of those tree branches.

I am always made to feel like part of the family, not like I married in or am an outsider. I am given the greatest of bear hugs and am treated to serious and hysterical conversations alike. Aunt Carolyn joked that Addie’s middle name was spelled and pronounced incorrectly in our attempts to name her after her great-great aunt. Uncle Jerry treated Addison to kind whispers and Zack to a joint piano concert. Uncle Leon and Aunt Janet are the most selfless and gracious of hosts (and people) and always help this event to come together.

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There are questions, out of love, about Zack, his treatment and his future. Real, honest conversations that mean so much to us — that show a desire for understanding and a commitment to a shared outlook and philosophy.

There was practically a line circling around our table, with loved ones anxious to see Z-Man and meet Miss Addie. Our children were stolen from us and were relocated in arms of love. We were okay with this theft. After the plates were cleaned and many of the guests had begun to leave, we found ourselves hanging around much longer than we had intended, watching more beaming smiles looking down at our daughter, watching our son explore and be a good boy long after nap time had come and gone. This might have been my favorite part. That point at a special moment where you find yourself willing your feet to be glued to that very spot.

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Oh, and the blog was even given a special shout-out!
I’m glad that it, this thing that came to life at first to keep our loved ones up to speed on our day-to-day life adventures, has done just that. Several people told me they felt as though they already knew Addie and Zack just from reading the blog. That’s what it’s all about.

I’m so happy, and so proud, to be a part of this family.
It’s a beautiful, wonderful family.
I like this tree a lot.

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My baby daddy

I sometimes wonder if being a dad isn’t harder than being a mom.
Mom gets all the glory and attention with the bump, then the newborn. Mom can feed said newborn with no fridge and no warming device. Mom usually gets more time with the kid or kids. And girls are shown how to become nurturing, maternal women when they grow up while boys are encouraged to play rough and be tough. Yet there’s still so many great dads in this world.

My own dad was strict but supportive and sacrificed so much to give me a great life. He’s my hero, my world. He is my Papa Bear and I am his Baby Girl. My dad has cheered me on and given me so many great memories. And we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. And we have only gotten a better relationship as the years go by.

I love now watching my dad in his newest role of PopPop to his six grandkids. The interest he takes in Zack’s latest achievements and the way he looked at Addie the first time he saw her… Well, those moments are so special.

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It’s just like seeing Scott first romantically, and then as a companion, best friend, husband. I loved him more with every new hat he wore, every new role he fit into flawlessly. His even temper and calm nature keep me grounded (and sometimes sane) and so grateful he is in my life.
But when I looked at him in an OR nearly two years ago, just moments before he was first becoming a dad, I knew this next journey, next title, would be the most extraordinary one yet.

Scott hasn’t had the easiest Daddyhood to navigate; there were times I knew he was hurting or feeling jaded or bitter, but I look at himand our family two years later and there is no doubt that there is anybody else who could be a better father to our children. I don’t think Scott is a perfect dad, nor do I think a perfect dad is the best dad. Just like with my own dad, I know the times Scott has been nervous or shaken or scared, angry or frustrated or exhausted, those are the times that make him a better father.

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Some of my happiest moments of being a mother come from watching Scott with Zack and Addie — simultaneous snores during late-night snuggles, walks around town, clapping for achievements, funny faces and so much patience and joy.

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They are the moments that make me so proud of our family and so grateful for the journey,even if I once doubted we’d ever catch our breath again. He’s made me cry happy tears and laugh hysterically.

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I don’t know where Scott learned his skills as a dad, or if they are even something you learn versus something just tucked away inside of us. Scott is different from his parents and unique from the father figures I’ve met from his life. He is his own man, his own type of Daddy, and this lil Zee Family is better for that.

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Happy Fathers Day, Scott, and thank you. You are loved. Times three.

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Recalling the week

It’s simple… These are my favorite moments of the week.

Addie is four weeks old today, and as I look at her sleeping on my lap, legs bent in toward the stomach she called home for nine-plus months, I’m completely mesmerized, taking in her big eyes and long little fingers like I haven’t been staring at her every chance I get. And whoever thinks lil girls don’t snore hasn’t been around this sleeping beauty. She gets that from her daddy.

She’s definitely changing and is as mesmerized by the world around her as it is by her. Her baby blues are open much more during the day and I can tell she’s following nearby movement and shadows. She’s making more noises, too… Aside from the cries and shrieks and s’mores and… other things, she’s trying out new coos and soft sighs.

She hasn’t seemed to have lost much hair other than the standard rubbed-off patch on the back of her head and she’s patient with me as this tomboy fumbles with barrettes and headbands and little pink bonnets.

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This week, we introduced her to the swing that was once used by her brother and before that her older cousin. She loves it! Momma loves that she loves it, too! I’ve been keeping it near the open front door so she has sunshine and bird chirping and a summer breeze for company on her swinging adventure. She’s fascinated by the nearby stained glass window, too.

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The swing, along with the baby Bjorn backpack, free my hands so that I can work through my to-do list and get more time with Big Brother.

Oh, and that son of mine. Talk about love. I so enjoy just watching him test his limits and babble to whatever or whomever is nearby. He imitates animal sounds like a champ, especially “meow” or “roar” but is still slow to get comprehensible words out… The occasional “Ma” or “Da” but that’s about it. He understands a lot and makes impressive emotional and social connections.

And he has started to sign “baby” this week. Possibly my favorite moment of the week.

Zack is spending more and more time voluntarily near his sister. He crawls over and stands up if I’ve laid her on the couch and babbles to her in the changing pad if she’s crying. He’s incredibly calm and gentle with her, almost as if he knows she’s little and fragile… Or just plain special. He tried throwing a ball at her yesterday, but I think he just wanted to play catch. Other than that, it’s all hair-petting and smiling.

As good of a big brother he is, he is much more than that.

He has tested out our family’s new inflatable pool a couple of times with Daddy and I don’t know who enjoys it more.

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And the Dude has a new big boy booster seat he is so proud of, smiling when we put him in and playing with it even after the meal is long over.

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He moves a lot of furniture lately, mostly chairs. Perhaps he’s trying to improve our home’s feng shui?

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Zack had a doctor’s checkup this week, too,and got a huge thumbs-up! He was up to 27 pounds and 33 inches. Other than a minor case of eczema, all is well. No more appointments for half a year!

And now, other week highlights, in photo form only… (by the way, please be patient as I start to add watermarks to my photos and please, for your sake and mine, don’t try to print or copy photos from the blog… Just let me know if you’d like a copy of a certain photo…)

Have a great weekend!

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Zack and Addie

The other day, we arrived at a friend’s house and I heard one of my Mommy Friends tell her daughter, “Look, here’s Zack and Addie!”
I love that. I love that two children are announced when our family arrives somewhere. I love that when I leave a room for a minute, I ask Scott to “please look after Zack and Addie” or when I RSVP to an event or sign a card, it’s got four names on it now.

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As much as I worried about keeping my eye on two children at one time, it’s now one of the things I love most. Whether in the privacy of our home when I tell Zack about having to feed his sister Addie or sing to Addie that it’s Zack’s time for a nap or out and about when I’m smiling to myself, even with arms feeling incredibly empty, watching friends love up and hug up both of my children.

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Zack and Addie.

My new friend Lindsay is the proud Mommy of Aubrey, born just one day before Addie in the same hospital. Our husbands have known each other off and on for years and Lindsay and I have just clicked. I think about how amazing it’s been to have Zack grow up with so very many friends nearly the same age as him and now I’m so excited that Addie will have at least one very close girlfriend her age who lives just 10 minutes away for us to enjoy many, many playdates and memories.

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Lindsay was my guinea pig for my first solo trip out of the house (and my first time driving in nearly a month!) with both kids. She was patient with me as I freaked out with nerves the night before and made us change plans and times a million times.

And you know, it wasn’t that bad. And it was so worth it. Sharing stories and comparing notes with another new Mom, passing kids back and forth and watching her make Zack so comfortable and so happy. And did I mention the absolutely adorable baby girls?

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I’m still not perfect when it comes to the solo mom stuff — I just about panicked trying to figure out how to make a quick trip to a fruit market possible with two kids today. My friend Krystal, who is herself Super Mom in so many ways, made it happen and took charge, mumbling to Addie about my having to practice multi-tasking. I loved it. One deep breath and a few moments watching her peruse the aisles of strawberries and melons so easily and I got my confidence back. I am so ready to tackle the fruit market again soon.

Our daughter and this beautiful summer “vacation” are adding to my already long list of blessings.

Watching grown men melt over a tiny baby girl.
Walks and talks with dear friends, our babies babbling as we share deep, scary thoughts and wonderful, wonderful dreams.
Zack and Scott enoying a first dip in our inflatable pool (known as Scott’s Redneck Hot Tub) while I held Addie on my chest on a chair next to them. Occasional splashes hitting us, a blonde boy’s laughter ringing through the air only moments after his first shrieks of anxiety when his toes hit the water. Smiling to myself as the sun hit my legs, taking it all in and realizing that while those weeds over there may not get pulled this week or next nor the tennis court swept or the bird feeders refilled, I am enjoying the most important moments of my life. Splashes and giggles and a little girl’s deep-sleep breathing in and out in rhythm to my own.

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Zack and Addie.
They’re both changing every day. They’re changing me every day.

Zack is developing a HUGE personality, bigger than I ever could have imagined for him. He’s getting braver and stronger. From six first steps three weeks ago to climbing up on a footstool, a rocker, a chair to facing his fears, literally, and dipping his face under the pool water and coming back up quickly with a grin. I spend so much of my time with him giving him space to spread his wings while holding my breath in preparation for my own fears.

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And Addie may be the only other one in this house to rival Zack’s personality. She’s alert so much of the time and raises her head up constantly for several moments at once to watch a ceiling fan, the window light, a shadow of someone walking across the room. She has slept through the night three nights and gives us at least a four or five hour reprieve most nights. She’s still a great eater and makes it very clear when the attention needs to be on her. She’s been wearing more pink and more hair bows than I ever thought I’d put on my daughter, but I love doing new things with her that I never did with Zack.

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It’s Zack and Addie.
Two babies, two kids, two siblings.
And what a good big brother Zack is turning out to be — usually only at home and only a couple of times a day, but he most definitely crawls over to his sister when she’s crying and has signed “baby” to me at least three times this week already, after us only putting it out there to him last week during a therapy session. He’s a great big brother, but we knew he would be, no surprises there. We give him room to touch his sister’s toes (or smack her head if that’s the case) because I don’t even want to entertain the notion of the word “no” around his sister. I want him to always be close to her — physically and in every other way possible.

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Because it’s Zack and Addie now.
And it’s my favorite part of this whole new segment of my life journey.

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Even when I can’t figure out how to carry two kids in a fruit market.

This chapter

My friend Nicole has told me I should write an autobiography. I’ve written pieces, to be honest, but lately, my chapters come out on this blog.

Nicole, I’ve entered my next chapter.
And it’s my favorite one yet.

I don’t take being a mother lightly. I don’t ignore the immense blessing that it really is, or the fact that Scott and I have had more good fortune than I sometimes think I deserve. In the past year alone, I’ve learned of three people in my life circles who have lost babies. I know a couple of very good friends, friends I know would be or already are amazing mothers, who have been trying for months and months and more months to try and get a positive sign on a pregnancy test. I’ve sat in another’s empty nursery and cried through prayers wanting their dreams, not my own.

But for whatever reason, I’m a proud Momma of two healthy children. I will never take that lightly.

Life does not always make sense. And we don’t always have the answers.

We were given a planned C-Section for our daughter. We spent the entire pregnancy going back and forth with different doctors about which birth method we should or would go for and it wasn’t until eight days before she was born that we finally had an answer, a deadline, a game plan. If you know me, you know I need a game plan.

Momma Plan. Momma Do. Repeat often.

The thing about eight days to think about a C-section is that you have eight days to think about a surgery. Even though I had done it before, I had only 45 minutes or less to “plan” for that emergency one with Zack. Adrenaline took over then. Nerves took over this time.

The nerves crept in slowly at first — just a thought here and there, every now and then. Then it was a dream that woke me up in the middle of the night. And then I was just gazing off into space with 10 or 20 minutes totally flying by while my mind was somewhere else entirely.

When I wasn’t pondering my mortality or whether or not a C-Section was the best decision for my baby’s birth, I was enjoying the last few seconds of Zack being our only child. As if right on cue, he began blossoming like never before. There were new tricks and new games; there was more babbling and bigger smiles, deeper belly laughs. There were a lot of hugs and a few embarrassing kisses from his Momma. And then there were the times I watched him sleep or told him one extra “I love you.”

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And then we dropped him off for a three-day sleepover with his buddy Owen and the emotional roller coaster began.

It’s only been two and a half weeks, yet it’s amazing how quickly the negatives disappear, especially when a tow-headed boy is driving his car backwards and his little sister is snoring on your chest. These are the moments that make incisions heal, bruises disappear, pain melt away, worry evaporate.

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My friend Allison laughed when I told her about Addie being born.
“How do you always have the craziest birth stories?” she squealed over the phone.

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The kind of story where your planned C-Section gets delayed by three hours, you’ve gone into labor on your own and you apparently bled much more than the doctor would have liked and the baby seriously will.not.come.out.

Yup, she was stuck. Or stubborn. Or both.
First there was the doctor mumbling something about the incision not being large enough. Followed by a request for scissors. Yup.
Still no luck. A vacuum was brought in. Luckily for Momma and Addie, that popped right off and we moved on to the next method.
Which was two larger nurses body tackling my chest and ribs to push Addie out like a good girl. Scott later said that one of the nurses’ feet were off of the floor while she pounced on me.

When Zack was born, he didn’t cry or scream. He let out one little quiet grunt and that was that. Scott can look back and say that was when he thought something was wrong. I just remember the panic over not seeing my baby due to the curtain and then not hearing anything. In the movies, the baby comes out, screams, Mom smiles and they start a great world with a white picket fence.

In those last few stressful moments as they were preparing to pull Addie out, I kept saying her name over and over, first in my thoughts only, then a quiet whisper from my lips. And then when the pressure let me know she was almost here, I changed my whisper to a simple, “Be OK. Please, please be OK.”

And then I heard a scream.
A loud, shrieking, high-pitched squeal.
And she didn’t stop for her entire time in the operating room, getting cleaned off and first glimpses from both parents. She didn’t stop the entire way down the hospital hallway to the nursery. Scott said one of the nurses at the nurses’ station laughed and said they usually hear the wheels of the baby’s bassinet down the hall before they hear the baby. Not our girl. She was here, for crying out loud!

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And she was OK.
Smaller than we and our doctors thought at only (haha only) 8 pounds, 1 ounce and 19.5 inches long. She had this ridiculous mop of long dark brown, almost black hair and these huge blue eyes that were taking everything in around her.

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She passed her hearing test on the first try a couple of days after her birth. And we never had any doctors concerned with jaundice or anything else. She took to nursing immediately and was a pro at latching on and getting her food.

When I was in the recovery room an hour after the surgery, Scott came in grinning like a Proud Poppa. He talked about her screaming down the hallways and how much she hated her first bath. He told me he got to hold her in a rocking chair in the nursery and I was so, so happy for him.

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But.

But I didn’t want to hear about the bath or the rocking or the screaming. There was only one thing I needed to hear.

“But she’s OK…?” I asked, trying to not be a freak-out Mom in front of the recovery nurse.
“Oh yeah, she’s fine,” he replied. Stupid Man, I thought, he just doesn’t get it.
“No, babe, is she… OK…?
He got it. He smiled. He grabbed my hand, nodded and told me how the one nurse remembered our story from helping us with Zack’s birth and checked Addie herself and then asked the doctor to very thoroughly check for any Down Syndrome indicators. (shape of the face and facial features being flat; a single palm crease; a large space between the first two toes, etc., etc.)
Addie showed no signs of Down Syndrome.

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I still wasn’t convinced.
Not until 24 hours later when one of the hospital pediatricians came into our room and performed the series of tests in front of me.

I still couldn’t exhale more than two years’ of holding my breath.
But then our own pediatrician, whose daughter had Down Syndrome and who told us on our first visit with Zack that our little guy was perfect and the rest of the world was screwed up, gave our little girl a look over and said she was perfectly healthy.

Scott and I got in the car that day and I asked him if it was safe to exhale. He and I agreed that we were still skeptical, still scared, still sometimes trapped in that dark place from 22 months ago. But then we agreed to take it, appreciate it and yes, exhale. Just a little bit.

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And so now we are parents of two. We are not quite outnumbered but not always in control. More often than not, one or both kids is crying at any given moment. But it is so worth it. And it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be.

I remember sitting in the car, both kids strapped in car seats in the backseat just moments after leaving the hospital while Scott picked up some prescriptions at the pharmacy. I listened to Zack’s babbling and then, suddenly, he stopped. I thought he must have fallen asleep, but when I looked, he was quietly peering over at his sister’s car seat, deep in thought, it seemed.

I didn’t think my heart could take any more that day.
And then Zack took his first steps.
Like no big deal, like he’s been doing it for weeks. He stood up on the floor while Scott was playing with him and took SIX very sturdy, very confident steps toward his Daddy. Scott and I were both in the room and didn’t even say a word to each other, we just kept looking at him and looking at each other.

And The Dude has been stepping a little bit every day. His record is seven steps at one time, but he probably does 10-20 a day.
And I’m still so amazed each time he does it that I freeze and haven’t yet captured it with a camera.

After all the time we spent waiting and praying and planning and worrying about those steps, he made them seem so easy. And he let us know that he was going to be just fine, too. It was one of the best moments of my life as a Momma so far, holding my newborn daughter, watching my husband and son play together in front of me, and then… then, those beautiful steps.

Having two kids is much more about staying one step ahead of the toddler and keeping the baby fed and clean and warm than anything else. Luckily, Zack has always been a relatively easy baby, although his new big brother attitude brings along with it frequent temper tantrums and a blatant disregard for the word “no.”

My favorite moments are when Zack checks out his little sister. He goes over toward her when she cries to check out what’s going on and has offered her three snacks and four toys, including his beloved cow this morning. That’s big stuff for a 22-month-old big brother.

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That’s what it’s all about. These are the moments I imagined for the year leading up to our pregnancy and for every day of it. It’s what kept me sane and quiet and still when I was on a table in an operating room listening to measurements of blood and a request for scissors.

I know in my heart that Zack will be as good for Addie as she is for him. And I pray that they will be close, that they can count on one another for whatever they may need on their life journeys. I pray that I am the Momma they need and that I can always look at them with pride — in them and in myself and Scott for giving them everything they needed.

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I love this new chapter, new Momma inside of me that came out kicking and screaming. I forgot the beauty of a newborn’s eyes and the daintiness of their toes and fingers. I forgot the smell. I forgot that incredible feeling that they truly and honestly need you in that moment. And that you can, at least for a while now, make it all better.

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All that Mommy Glow Happiness is not at all hinting that I am perfect or that I am handling two kids flawlessly. Nobody’s perfect. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t let one — or both — of them cry for 10 minutes just so I can brush my teeth or take a shower. And I’ve most definitely created a changing pad/diaper/pajamas fiasco at 3 a.m. on more than one occasion because I’ve tried to change a diaper while still half asleep.

And I’ve missed my own mother more in the past three weeks than in any other point in my life so far. I imagined her with me during the surgery and looking over my shoulder the first time I held my daughter. I’ve pretended to know what her first few days with me were like, but it really is a game of pretend. It hurts and I’m sure it always will, but I take comfort in knowing that I will tell my children all about their maternal grandmother and hopefully in some way they will feel like they knew her — the good, the bad and the ugly. All of it.

We have had ourselves an amazing month or so. None of it would have been possible without all of our loved ones who helped make it an easier transition for us. I can’t count the number of happy tears I cried or deep breaths of relief I exhaled thanks to those who watched our son, visited the hospital and our home, brought us food, gave gifts, sent loving messages and surrounded us with unbelievable love.

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The love from friends and family is an integral part of this new chapter, too. The way they still make Zack feel special without having to talk about him being a Big Brother because they understand there’s still more to him than just that title. The way they look into my children’s blue eyes with a love that could almost rival my own. The quiet moments and the laughs and everything in between.

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I don’t take any of that for granted either.

I held my breath for so long, that now that it seems safe to exhale and take a few steps forward without nervously looking over our shoulder, I just want to scream at the top of my lungs. I want to run out to the middle of our yard, look down at our peaceful town and know that it is all okay. I want to look all those monsters right in the eye and watch them run away in fear.

We are just in such a good place.
We have a beautiful, healthy, happy family.
There are coos in our house again. There are squeals over accomplishments. There is laughter. It is a louder place now. It is a livelier place. There are darker circles under our eyes but it’s not as hard to smile.

There is freedom.

There is a new chapter.
And it’s my favorite one yet.

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Scott and I put together a video with some of the highlights from Addie’s first week. You can see that here.

And please don’t forget about Zack’s fundraiser for the National Down Syndrome Society. As we prepare for our advocating family of three to grow into an accepting family of four, supporting the NDSS is as important, if not more important, than ever before. Every little bit helps and I still think we can reach $5,000 in time for Zack’s second birthday in August. Please spread the word! We are so excited to raise our daughter in a world that will accept, understand and appreciate her brother and others like him. We’ll be using those blue eyes of hers for some advocacy work here soon enough! 🙂