A lil sprinkle

Our dear friends Reva and Bret will be welcoming their second child, a sweet little girl, to their family (and therefore their extended Friends Family) at the end of August/early September. Yesterday, there was a “sprinkle” at our friend Erin’s house in their honor.

Nick and Erin were fantastic hosts and Erin and Krystal put a lot of work into making the second-time Momma’s baby shower a great event for everyone there.

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And it was a surprise! (And the Girl of the Hour actually showed up, which was nice considering she told me a few days before that she “might” be going to Erin’s “BBQ”).

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Baby decorations, pink bags (so much pink, I might add) and a bunch of lil ones playing in the grass while the adults chatted about mature and responsible things like erotica novels (wait, what?) over their beer cans.

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Zack and Owen have been best buds for two years now (Owen turns Two on Aug. 9) and I’m hoping beyond all hopes that Addie and Baby Girl (name to be withheld until Mom gives me the green light!) are good friends, too.

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Another fantastic day, another fantastic memory, one last thumbs-up for our awesome, awesome summer.

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Congratulations, Reva and Bret and Owen!

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Dear Addie

I have so much to tell you, little girl.

Like the fact that you have made me a better person in less than three months.

Your brother made me a mother.
And I mean no injustice to either of you, but I can honestly say that your birth and these last 10 or so weeks with you have made me a better mother.

My time with the two of you in these past couple of months have brought me patience and the purest of joy and even a bit of spontaneity and courage.

I went from hardly being able to face leaving the house alone with the two of you to looking for more and more things we can do as a trio outside of our home. We have had many a playdate and you’ve already been introduced to your very own birthday buddy, Miss Aubrey. Yesterday, while your brother looked on, you and Aubrey almost seemed to be talking to each other in cute little “coo” and “gah” noises. I can’t imagine the secrets you’ll continue to share for hopefully many years. We’ve had playdates with your brother’s friends and visits to Mommy’s family and friends. You’ve been passed around among easily three dozen people and you’ve probably been (unintentionally, I’m sure) hit over the head with various trucks and other toys five times a day. Yet you rarely fuss about any of it.

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As long as you’re fed and comfortable and a pacifier is on standby (I hope you grow out of that habit before you’re 12 years old, by the way), you’re such a chill baby.

I love holding you, feeling the soft skin on your legs and arms, the furry, full hair on your head. Just as much though, I do enjoy sharing you with others, seeing your blue eyes scan the room around you, sometimes toward a ceiling fan and sometimes toward your Momma (thank you). I probably look like I’m staring at the person holding you because I’m nervous or empty without you. Not the case at all, just taking it all in. Taking you all in.

I love so much about you. I’m sure I’m incredibly biased, but I think you are more and more beautiful every day I meet you in your room in the morning. Your eyes are bluer, your hair is thicker, your smile more grand.

I love the personality I’m imagining you having. A quiet strong. The days of high-pitched shrieking seem to have passed (Thank God) and they’re replaced by a peaceful observation from those lovely eyes of you on the world around you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t make a peep. Oh no, you like to make your presence known. But mostly, you’re a happy girl.

You don’t just smile at me. I’ve seen you smile at just about anybody who makes eye contact with you or talks to you. You don’t play favorites. I do love when you smile at your brother, even if you don’t realize that his beloved cow in his right hand is about to make contact with your head. You hear his voice sometimes and just smile, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Someday you’re going to understand that your brother has an extra chromosome. I hope that makes him even more extra special to you. It may also make things extra hard, not only for him but maybe for you. Kids may tease your brother and may even say mean things to you. Some people (Adults can be just as mean) may not say anything at all but may act funny. I hope you keep up the quiet strength that you’ve shown so far. As impressed as I am by how quickly you’ve learned to hold your head up high or support your body with your arms, I’ll be equally impressed, perhaps more so, if you use those arms to wrap your brother up in your love. I hope Down Syndrome never rules our lives, especially yours and your brother’s. And I hope that you and Zack can make a big difference in this crazy world.

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Your brother loves you so much. He may not be able to say it, but I can tell by how happy and giddy he gets around you that you are pretty cool to have around… even if he still throws most of your toys down the cat door. Don’t worry, he throws his favorite toys down the basement steps, too.

Zack has just started walking and I honestly think it’s because of you. He took his first independent steps the day we brought you home from the hospital and just this past week he started walking — everywhere! — by himself. He often brings himself to the floor or swing where you are at and says “Ad-da,” his word for you.

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We worked so hard for every milestone with Zachary and things seem to be coming to you so, so quickly. I love that. I love how smart and strong you are, but I have to force myself to be in every moment because I know how lucky a parent is to truly understand and cherish a skill.

So Ad-da, please know that you are loved. And that you’ve made my world, and your Daddy’s world, and yes, your brother’s world, a better one.
You will never remember the past 10 weeks, but I will cherish them forever. I will remember your weight against me as I carried you on a backpack on my chest. And yes, speaking of chest, I will remember the times nursing you where I thought the strong love I felt at that moment could never be felt again, it was just too intense and too fierce. I will remember you wearing a little pink bonnet your Daddy picked out from a Mennonite store just a week or two before you were born and how that bonnet meant I had you out in the fresh air, talking to you about birds chirping or waves crashing. I will remember the water lapping over your little feet that first time on a park beach. And the crazy toupee-like look your hair got from a crazy shore breeze one night.

I will remember the first time Zack held your hand and the first time he kissed you and the many imaginative dreams my mind had for your future. I will remember the way you felt in my arms that first night in the hospital and how completely over the moon your Daddy looked when he gazed at us. I will remember the closest of friends who have loved you like you were their own and the clothes and presents and kisses you’ve been given. I will remember the first time I heard your “coo” and the first time you rolled over on your own.

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But the way you feel in my arms and the beauty of your often-present smile — that is what I will carry with me when I’m at work missing you or that first day next week when I’m driving in my car without you in the backseat.

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I look forward to all of the days I am given with you. Each one is a treasure.

So thank you for making me a better mother and a better person. And for giving me the most incredible summer of my life.

I love you, Addie.

Love,
Momma

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The last week

I’m aware of how lame it is to keep bragging about how each week is more fantastic than the last. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop acknowledging and admiring the small beauties in our everyday life.

This week alone, Addie has started babbling more and has just begun rolling to her side. And Zack’s walking has been met by an excited Daddy showing him a baseball bat and golf clubs as a means of celebration.

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We had a visit from an old friend who consistently sticks by me no matter the distance or time and who puts a smile deep within my soul and rejuvenates me. I’ve missed her and I count my lucky stars we had time together and I got to meet the man who puts this glow on her that I’ve never seen before.

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And there were books to be read and occupational therapies to be practiced and new discoveries to be shared and smiles at every turn.

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So yes, it’s annoying and at the same time amazing, but I hold tight to the miracles, if you will, that surround me and the happiness and joy that I have found.

Happy weekend!

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Coffee date

I had a coffee date today with two fantastic ladies, both inspiring in their own ways. Here in my living room.

Except there was no coffee.
And I’ve never met one of the ladies.
And the other one was nearly 500 miles away.

Some crappy coffee date, huh? Nah. Pretty special actually.

This afternoon, my friend Nicole and I participated in a webinar hosted by the National Down Syndrome Society featuring Kelle Hampton, author of the memoir Bloom and blogger at Enjoying the Small Things, which has given me support and courage from the first day I found her blog nearly two years ago.

Kelle gave her introduction as I sat with a Cherry 7Up, not a coffee, holding my little girl while the Little Man slept upstairs. I was transported in that moment, maybe something to do with hearing Kelle detailing her daughter Nella’s birth and the journey her family has been on and maybe something to do with holding a little baby that I love more than anything else in this world (except for her big brother). I was transported to a time when I was scared, frustrated, angry and so hurt. A time when I thought a crappy hand had been dealt to my son before he even had a chance to shuffle the cards himself.

But today, just like that day in August of 2010, Kelle’s words comforted me and Nicole’s presence, albeit over the Internet, offered me a beautiful unspoken support.

I was like a little schoolgirl trying to type the frenzy of questions in my mind onto the screen as quickly as possible before I forgot them, before I thought of something else, all the while listening to Kelle’s wisdom and imagining dozens of other DS moms and their supporters shaking their heads in agreement and yielding their coffee cups up in the air for a virtual “clink.”

Nicole and I passed 50 e-mails back and forth to each other in that hour.
“I love that photo…” one read as a black-and-white photo of a beautiful girl came on our screens.
“That was a great question…” another one offered.
“Here come the tears…”
“I love you…”

A lot of my worry lately has been on what Down Syndrome means for Addie. The little girl who was born into a family surrounded by but not engulfed in it. The little girl who will have to adapt to scheduling around her brothers’ therapy appointments and whatever else follows next year. The little girl who will one day be lectured on her and her friends using the “R” word or making fun of other kids.

And Kelle touched on some of that today. On the balancing of her two children, on the ways she talks about Down Syndrome with her older daughter, on the ways she is advocating and spreading the word about her journey.

It gave me motivation (should I remind you now about our ongoing fundraiser to help benefit the National Down Syndrome Society, available for your viewing pleasure here…?) and a much-needed shot in the arm of courage.

Nicole and I joked afterwards about all of the other things we should have been doing instead of hanging out at a webinar and typing e-mails — her, packing for a big move and me, organizing before I go back to work. But I know neither of us would have traded this experience for anything in the world.

From Nicole:

There have been 2 people that have really inspired me in this crazy world that we live in. That just make me want to LIVE and do something crazy with this “wild and precious life”. Kelle’s one of those people. The other was sitting right there with me today in that webinar, albeit 498 miles away…..

And then, for some nerdy reason, I decided to send a quick e-mail to Kelle, thanking her for her inspiring words and for sharing her journey with Down Syndrome with so many people. And just minutes later, I had a new message in my inbox.

From Kelle:

Thank you so much for these kind words. For any speaking event or webinar or interview, etc. my measure of success is always “did it feel like we were having coffee at a table together?” Ha. Seriously, it is. And you said those very words. I’m so happy with how the webinar went and the questions that were chosen.

And then, after congratulating us on Zack’s walking (Yes, I bragged to her, too!), very powerful words that are really what it’s all about (whatever “it” is):

And it is so wonderful to know we’re all this together–that there are many of us figuring this out, one day at a time.

Life is good, so very good.

Baby steps

I don’t have to count anymore.
For the past two months, as Zack approaches the long-awaited milestone of officially walking, Scott and I have been counting steps every time our little towhead stands up around us.
Five days ago, the record was 24 steps.

And now, walking has become the principal method of movement for our Little Man and counting is no longer necessary.
It’s like a switch just went off in the past day or so. I woke up yesterday to a baby who predominantly used his fancy-schmancy, unique crab crawl. And this morning, I am watching a toddler, not a baby, take great big confident steps from one activity to another.

Across the room to chase after the ball he threw. And then back after another throw.

Stomping sounds coming toward me as I wash my hands in the bathroom. Around the corner I first see a huge grin and then realize he’s walked around most of the downstairs to get to me.

Over to his sister from his toybox. Because Sissy in her bouncer is much more interesting than the 1,867 toys we have in the living room alone.

It’s like he realizes how awesome this is, too. He looks toward us for some sort of recognition or praise, drool flowing freely from a wide open smile, his blue eyes dancing with excitement.

I don’t have to count steps anymore.

I’m not sure when it becomes official that he is a walker. Perhaps an announcement from our physical therapist tomorrow, perhaps when we see him in a particular setting or with certain people. Or maybe it’s just when we stop dropping our mouths to the floor, looking at each other half-shocked, half in tears.

Scott and I have worked so hard with Zack, enticing him with toys and games across the room and cheering and applauding so obnoxiously whenever we got three or five steps at a time. I remember just last week watching him take a few steps in the thick, uneven sand on the beach thinking how impressive a feat that was for his little legs.

We owe much more credit to Zack’s therapists. They have become such a part of our family (we have four of them now) and they share in our accomplishments with equally-as-proud tears. I can’t wait to show Miss Kathleen tomorrow!

But the hardest worker was Zack.
His mind has fought against his heart, one telling him to move, move, move, one succumbing to the pain and discomfort, the odd, unfamiliar feelings and sensations. He has gone from six steps when we brought his little sister home in May to more and more steps on harder and harder surfaces.

And now, finally, after nearly two years of wondering will he or won’t he, we finally can say he will. He does.
The lack of a Magic 8 ball for this Down Syndrome diagnosis has been the hardest pill to swallow on this journey. We will only find out Zack’s capability when we reach each milestone. And those milestones come with a larger delay than we would like.

We were never sure if Zack would walk. Nightmares of wheelchairs haunted me for weeks after his diagnosis. His rolling over comforted us a bit, as did his sitting up on his own and his eventual standing and crawling. And now he’s walking.

One milestone down.

Now we still don’t know if he’ll be able to speak sentences to us. Just this past week we’ve heard sounds like “ball”, but perhaps that will be it. We continue to work hard, pushing him and ourselves with signing and repetitive noises and following the guidance of his new speech therapist. I still yearn for and pray for the day he says “I love you, Momma.” That day may never come.

But days like today, watching my son, the boy who made me a mother, take steps across our home over and over and over with such ease gives me hope for tomorrow and confidence that all of our hard work has been so worth it.

My son is walking.
The same boy I held in my arms nearly two years ago, my tears running onto his face after reading another article about a child with Down Syndrome in a practical vegetative state. On that day, I began preparing myself for the worst. And praying for the best.

And yes, sometimes prayers do come true. I know how lucky and how fortunate we are.
And I realize how long our road ahead still is. But for this day, I will celebrate. I will live in this moment and not in next month when I’m back to work or next year when we lose our Early Intervention assistance.

Today I am in the here and now.
With a handsome boy. A handsome boy who just walked over to his little sister, sat down next to her while she cried and held her hand while petting her hair, almost as if to say “We’ll all be okay.”

And we will be.

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Summertime spontaneity

I used to be a rather spontaneous person, but in recent years I have become a boring, plan-months-in-advance kind of girl. I think part of it is being a Mom. I can’t just throw a duffel bag in the car and call it a day. There are routines and schedules to consider, pack-and-plays and 126 diapers to find room for in the car.

But then last week after joking over and over again with my mother-in-law about just throwing everything in the car and going to Scott’s uncle’s vacant beach house for a few days, I decided to just do something at the last minute that wasn’t written on the calendar this time last year.

So it started with a Facebook message.
“Anyone kind of, sort of free Tuesday through Thursday?”

Within five minutes, a “ding!” on my computer.
My friend Nicole responds with a “yes” in all caps.

And aside from the butterflies in my stomach, a huge smile grew in that moment, too. I smirked to myself and soon heard from my local friend Krystal and then my Philly-area friend Kacey.

Within 24 hours, the joke turned into a scheming plan. The stars aligned, Uncle Joseph and Aunt Mary graciously offered their available beach house, my mother-in-law volunteered for pacifier and snack duty on the five-hour trip each way.

I had to do an emergency trip to the store because I didn’t even have a swimsuit for myself. Or beach toys for Zack. Or unscratched sunglasses. Or a beach towel.

Soon, I found myself packing up every last square inch of the car whole stopping every few minutes to ask Scott just how crazy I was.

He insisted I wasn’t too crazy. And basically pushed me out the door. (Not sure whose sanity we saved more this past week — his or mine!)

And then we were off.
Aside from a two-month-old girl who insisted on making her presence known each night between 3 and 5 a.m., a horrific traffic-and-Camden-filled ride home yesterday and a bit of sunburn for me to remember the beach by, it was an amazing trip.

Spontaneity suits me, I think.

There were a few quiet moments reading and mingling at the house, watching the kids play together. But there were many more louder moments — the kind filled with crashing ocean waves, chats in the sand, giggles between friends, gasps at sunsets. And the quiet-but-feels-loud moments where my thoughts overtook the shore breeze and screeching seagulls. Where peace came over my body. Calmness, strength and determination.

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Some of my happiest moments, perhaps in my entire life so far (definitely Top Ten) came on this spontaneous trip to the Jersey Shore.

Sitting on the beach just at the water’s edge with my son. He stands up, walks confidently over to me and plops down in between my legs. We put our fingertips in the sand, his short, stubby fingers over mine. We pointed at and laughed at the waves that came to us. And every now and then, he would just turn his head around and smile at me. He was such a little beach bum. I think sometimes as a mother our emotions are so closely intertwined with those of our children. Zack’s enjoyment on that beach brought me heart-bursting joy.

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My friends walked with, picked up, fed, played with and talked to my children as if they were their own. They helped me when I felt overwhelmed and made me laugh until it hurt.

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There was a chat on a darkened porch, wine glasses in our hands, ocean waves on one side of us, a bay on the other, secrets shared, laughter and leg-slapping as we felt like college kids again, at least for a few moments.

Ice cream as a group, with melted colors on little girl lips and little boy forehead (yes, I said forehead). Good to the last drop!

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A lighthouse and walk along the water, white-capped waves crashing against large dark boulders. And my “gemela” risking her life, and possibly jailtime, to save Addie’s windswept bonnet.

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And my Addie. I held her close to me in our baby backpack for most of our trips. whether walking, arms full and heavy, to the beach, strolling down a retro street or digging my toes into the sand, she lay cuddled up on my chest. What I thought at first would be a nuisance turned into a whole other realm of bonding. Her crazy dark, soft hair turning even crazier on a windy day, her arms clutching my shirt, her smooth, even breathing.

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Those are the moments. The special moments you can’t plan.

The click of my camera in competition only with my talented friends’ photography (special thanks to them for some of these photos).

I wouldn’t have changed a thing and in the end, I’m so very, very happy I decided to just say to Hell with it all and gave something crazy a whirl again. Life is too short not to live on the edge every now and then, not to test yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Life is too short not to live a little spontaneously every now and then.

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I’m ready for my next bout of spontaneity, whenever it comes knocking at my heart again.

The sad truth

“Sometimes sad.”

My doctor wrote those words down in his chicken scratch handwriting after I interrupted him during a long list of routine questions he was expecting me to answer with a no.

“Headaches…? Dizziness…? Bowel issues…? Breastfeeding problems…? Sadness or depression…? Upset stomach or digestive problems…”

I glanced at Scott, noticing the slightest twitch in one hair of one eyebrow as he watched Addie sleeping in her carseat. So many mood swings, the starting of silly fights, those horrible things I called him the other night…

“Well, I’m sometimes sad,” I interrupted with, barely a mumbled whisper.

We decided to call it the postpartum blues.
We decided to forego the offered three-month trial medicine. For now.

“Your baby is so healthy and happy,” Dr. J said.

Yes, yes she is. And I also don’t know what that was meant to do.

I don’t know why, at a time when I am at my happiest, when my world is going great, why I’m sometimes sad. Sometimes it’s because it’s 2:13 p.m. Or 5:33 a.m. Sometimes it’s because Zack is hugging me. Sometimes it’s because a bird tweeted or a car honked. I honestly don’t know.

And I’m not entirely sure why I’m sharing this, either. I started this post the morning after our doctor visit in late June and in the couple of weeks since then, I have come out from the worst of the darkness and can look back at these words and feel almost silly. I haven’t told my family or my closest friends. Only Scott, poor guy.

I don’t know why I am sharing this, except it’s the truth, the sad truth. Except it’s not silly, it’s serious.
Except to say that I am ok. To say that despite coming from a family line of depression and despite my own past struggles with mental illness and despite the dark moments I’m currently enduring, I know that I am strong enough now and have the right support beside me to make it through until it’s 2:14 p.m. Or until the car drives past our house.

This happens. This can happen to anyone.
It can not happen after an emergency C-section and a surprise, shocking health diagnosis just as easily as it can happen following a planned surgery and a “perfect,” healthy baby.

I’m not always sad.
And I know that with the right diet, some Momma Time and a bit of sunshine mixed with the smiles and laughter of my children and love from my husband, that I can soon go back to almost-never sad.

But for now, it’s one day at a time with “sometimes sad.”

I found a few good sites online, like this one, with information on this topic. Please don’t mess around with this. If you know someone who may be depressed, even just sometimes sad, talk to them, more importantly listen to them, and get help if needed.

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