Under all that blue fur

My Momma Heart melted a bit again today.

It does this now and then — just lets loose and opens up and all the worrying and holding my breath and doubting myself laughs as the giggles and happy tears and smiley-round-the-mouth wrinkles spew from my heart.

Zack had his Halloween parade this morning at school.
I was hardly expecting it to be a crucial moment in his childhood. In fact, I was just counting it as a plus that the Cookie Monster hat was on his head for a solid ten minutes before school. Progress for a family that learns that sensory issues creep up out of nowhere, especially around a holiday geared towards itchy outfits and overwhelming sounds and feelings. He hopped on the bus and was holding hands with a SpiderMan when I waved good-bye.

So I chugged some coffee while picking up tufts of blue fur on the kitchen floor, scooped up Addie (who the night before had thrown her Elmo head into the garbage, causing Momma to search for an hour last night and some this morning before she just told me where it was. It’s been cleaned and is drying on a ceiling fan.) and off went our family of three (bonus Happy Momma points for Scott getting out of work super early today!) to Zack’s school just a few miles away.

There were dozens of parents and grandparents and siblings spaced along a downhill driveway’s fence on the property, phones out, cameras out, leaning further and further onto the concrete as 10 a.m. neared and most definitely ignoring at least half of what one administrator was saying before the parade.

And then, a commotion that can only come from 30 pre-school-age kiddos in costume attempting a single-file line outside of their building and routine.

Zack was one of the first ones, standing next to another Cookie Monster (doh!) and holding the hands of one of the school’s aides.

The hat was on… SUCCESS!, I thought.

And almost predictable, our quiet, observing boy came closer. One hand was fidgeting with the strap on the hat under his chin. And then, a wipe of the nose (classy, boy!) and you could almost see him pull his shoulders up with a mental pep talk as he trudged along, looking at the crazy cheering adults along his path.

And then he spotted us.
Oh, the smile he had. It was like everything changed. The hand at his face went down. The smile stayed. He was about five feet past us when he turned around, nearly dragging his aide down, and said “Hi, DaDa!” and waved.

The families were gathered by corresponding class outside at the playground (quite the feat when you have a two-year-old sibling antsy to try out the slide) while the students were nestled inside with a Dora episode and a special treat.

When we got inside, Zack was near the front, sitting on a little stool with an aide rubbing his back and helping him with his drink. The hat was off, I noticed, but more than that, I was able to just observe.

He was a bit antsy but stayed in his seat the entire time as the teachers and aides took turns helping him out and talking to him here and there.
He was a good boy, I saw. Happy Momma.
He needed a lot of one-on-one help. Sad Momma.
He’s happy. Happy Momma.
They love him, you can see it. Happy Momma.

We watched for a while and then had the chance to meet two of the aides, who just raved about The Dude (I bet you tell that to all the Halloween Parade parents, I thought) and then, a great conversation with his teacher, Ms. Joanie.

Joanie told us things like “great speech” and “so smart” and “I can tell you have worked so hard” and I had to look away because these tears just welled up inside of my throat and I had to concentrate on the paper cup in my hand and Zack’s soft Cookie Monster fur to keep from falling apart in her arms with “Thank yous” and “you don’t know what this means to us.”

Under all that blue fur is one-third of my family. One-half of my children. 50 percent of the best thing I’ve ever created. Under all that blue fur are so many of my worries and so very many of my smiles. The calm, sweet, huggy boy that makes everyone in a room chin up and cheer up with a single unsolicited smooch.

I stressed the most during our move about finding the right school for Zack. And I have no doubt, after just an hour stolen from their days and days of hard work, that we found the perfect place. He has grown in so many ways just in the seven or so weeks of bus rides and letter show-and-tells and notes on yellow-lined paper back and forth.

If it’s just for that hour or for the rest of today or this week or every time I think about my little Cookie Monster or for the rest of our school year or the rest of our lives, they have given us hope and knowledge and tools and love.

I speak often about “Welcome to Holland” as the greatest analogy for having a child with Down Syndrome. And every now and then, I am so grateful that all the tulips and windmills and Rembrandts came our way. Because under all that blue fur today, is my son, struggling with all of the very real issues any mom of any four-year-old deals with — tantrums and nap times and diapers and not sharing with his sister. And under all that blue fur are the many lessons he has brought to me and the many ways he has made me a better person.

Under all that blue fur today is an incredible love that I wish everyone could experience and understand. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known.

Tomorrow is the last day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. But knowledge must always continue. Questions can be sent directly to me or you can visit the pros at http://www.ndss.org, one of the best sources of information out there.

Consider a donation to help The National Down Syndrome Society continue their incredible work for research and advocacy or stop by their website every now and then just to learn a little more.

And I feel the need to say a might thank-you to the many people who love our Zack and our Addie and bring us warmth and support and kindness.

I am so grateful for our little world, currently lined with blue and red tufts of fur. And a heck of a lot of love.

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Reconnecting

It’s a cyclical thing, me and reconnecting. Every three months or so, I find myself in what should be a very happy moment just paralyzed and overwhelmed with stress or worry or the Grumpy Gloomies. And it’s almost always because I’ve become disconnected. From the things I love or from seeing what’s right in front of me.

So I’m reconnecting. Slowly but surely. I need to find a way to make sure I stay connected — that’s the tricky part.

Despite being a stay-at-home-mom for the better part of nine-and-half months already, it’s still a title I wear with difficulty some days. I find it hard to believe that one year ago, I was juggling a 70-hour work week with wife and mom and house duties, all the while attempting my photography business on the side. Something always suffered.

Now, I can say that most days, I’m rocking it all.
I’m putting down the phone and picking up the blocks or cars. I’m learning to tolerate Elmo’s World and a side of two-year-old temper tantrums when I decide Elmo is a once-a-day activity. (Not five or nine). I make the most of nap times. The phone comes out, the computer cranks on and I amaze myself with how productive I can be in 2.5 hours.

I feel like I know my kids better and better. I feel like they know me, and you know, maybe even appreciate me. I hope that they know that becoming a SAHM was the best job title I ever gained and that I am forever grateful I can reinforce Zack’s school lessons each week and pick out clever items for Show-and-Tell. I’m happy that I am there when Addie wakes up crying or tells me she has a boo-boo on her teeth (She’s teething some God-awful molar, we think). I’m there. I’m grateful I’m there.

It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month (Please learn more about DS here!) and I am amazed at what DS means to us nowadays. It means an incredible school and some free diapers, but really, it means so little. Because Zack is our son. He is the smile and reaching hand under his door after nap time as I creep up the stairs for giggles. He is the unsolicited slobbery kiss when you least expect it. He is sometimes a troublemaker and sometimes, he pushes his sister. (She usually deserves it) He is a flirt with the girl that sits next to him on the bus. He screeches “SCHNACK!” as soon as he wakes up and then proceeds to eat out of his sister’s bowl when she’s not looking. He is not DS.

I’m reconnecting with Scott, and him with me. He comes home to a dinner that at least smells good from the kitchen door (I promise nothing comparable in taste). I take care of the dishes so that he can enjoy the only hour or so he gets with the kids some days.

We have a happy little routine and I’m even building up both of my businesses (shameless plug for Wendy Zook Photography and my Mary Kay business). I’m working on an advancement training program with MK once a week and I’ve booked several photo sessions for 2015 already.

I’m crocheting up a storm, which is always a relaxing go-to for my hands and mind. And this week alone, I’ve gotten through six(!) magazines from my Leaning Tower of Haven’t Read These Yet.

Yet — perhaps it’s the selfish part of me — I still want more. Is it just a Me thing? Or a Woman thing? I always feel like if I stray the least bit from what I “should” be doing, I’m a huge letdown. If I decide ordering a pizza is worth sneaking in a DVR’d Dancing With the Stars some Tuesday afternoon, am I lazy or smart? I need my sanity, right? But then Scott’s taking a detour on his way home and there’s certainly no heavenly meaty scent wafting through the kitchen when he enters.

I’ve yet to make any friends in the area, and I know that will come in time (Working on it, I promise!), but meanwhile, it can make for an isolating experience some days. But I’m finding myself and reconnecting to myself. That’s a worthwhile experience.

Before my ‘gemela’ and I became nearly inseparable in our Argentina adventures (some cough, NINE, cough years ago), I remember spending my first couple of weeks learning not only a dialect and a land, but learning of a young woman who I’d never taken the time to know. I stared longer at laugh lines and grey flecks in eyes. I roamed cobblestone streets alone and loved every second of it — the people watching and the thoughts in my mind that made me smile. I stared out at a harbor for the better part of an hour, thinking and not thinking all at the same time.

I’ve spent this past year watching my dear friend Kacey, the true-friend-true-person kind of lady, plan her wedding. I’ve loved being on this journey with her. We have, without a doubt, become closer, and I know that won’t change after this weekend. I love that her engagement chapter has reminded me not to pause when I want to share a picture or send a just-because Hello. That a stamp is well worth the pay-out of a smile 300 miles away.

I’ve reconnected with old friends and acquaintances, too, and playdates are planned and mini-reunions on the books! It’s funny how time and life change who you need to be around and who makes you happy. The people who let you know, sometimes indirectly, that you’re doing a mighty fine job. At all of it.

I feel as though I’m returning to that mindset by the South American harbor and to that way of living every moment; feeling every moment. Not staring at water for an hour uninterrupted, of course. But learning what makes me tick and what makes me better. And sometimes that’s sacrificing.
And sometimes it’s just reconnecting.