It could have been us

My sister finalized her divorce last week.

It is a bittersweet time because, obviously, no one wants a marriage to fail, especially when there are children are involved. But, when two adults realize they don’t bring out the best in each other anymore, you just have to be supportive, if they have done everything in their power to become better and stronger, in their choice to separate. At least, that’s my opinion.

Maybe because this whole thing hits too close to home.

Barely two years ago, this could have been us. Wendy and Scott.

We had fallen out of respect for each other and lacked any real good communication. Two major failures in the world of love and marriage.

We spent a long hard several months apart. Perhaps a needed break and a chance to grow and reevaluate. We tried counseling and separation and, in the end, absence made the heart grow fonder — and much more respectful and gracious and understanding, too.

We still to this day have to conscientiously make sure that we are being good to each other, ourselves and our relationship — if any of those three things fail (and honestly, it’s usually being good to ourselves), the whole thing can crumble. We know this too, too well.

Divorce is a scary word.

Yet, it’s amazing how many couples — those married a couple months and those married 50 years — have admitted to me how close they themselves were to that ugly word.

I don’t think any less or any differently of them, just like I will never judge my sister or former brother-in-law for their decisions and their journey. But we were judged.

I lost friends, the closest and dearest of friends, because of their judgement on us, and on me. I faced rumors, ridicule. And very little support. Friends who didn’t leave just didn’t exactly hang around to support and rather, chose to hang out on the sidelines. Like, “I’m here but not really.”

I’m not on my sister’s sideline. I’m with her. Whatever our differences in parenting or style or personality or anything else, she’s had my back and I will have hers.

Last week, my family was gathered and we all poured some champagne and cheered to the end of one chapter in my sister’s book. And over the edge of my glass, I spotted Scott and gave him a nod. I looked at the kids we were raising and the family who supported our little world and I knew the right turns in our journey had been made. Every twist is for a reason. Every fork in that road matters.

We’re back on the same team and we’re stronger than ever, but it’s important to every now and then acknowledge that this could have been us.

It’s a bittersweet reality that one day will be shared with our children and maybe even our grandchildren. And often, as a reminder between the two of us. It’s the thing that haunts us in quiet moments now and then and the thing we manage to forget, just for a moment, when it’s been a good day and it all came easy.

It’s that thing that circles us in peaceful reminders like a ring, a vow, a story.

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The night supper was late

Scott and I joke all the time how amazing it is that I haven’t given anyone food poisoning yet. I mean, barely a year ago, Scott was the primary chef and parent in the house and I was managing a 30-person team 65 hours a week.

And now, I manage to feed us somewhat-edible meals, clean, run two businesses and sometimes shower.

Last night, supper took longer than I thought it would, and so we found ourselves with this awkward not-part-of-our-routine half-hour when Scott got home from work.

And we lived a weekend’s worth of love and laughter in 30 minutes on a weeknight.

We had ourselves a little fake food party, all four of us, down on the hard dining room floor. I drank a teacup filled with an apple and a waffle and Scott had the most delicious slice of pizza, complete with olives, croissant and french fry.

We snuck in a ticklefest just as the oven timer started to ding.

I had barely finished my last bite of food when my son hopped down from his chair and held out a hand. Pointing with his right fingers at the TV, playing music, he bowed down.

“Dance, Momma?”

He looked like a little prince.

So I gladly accepted.

Dishes sat on the table and Addie and DaDa watched us like we were crazy, but my little Z-Man and I twirled and clapped and stomped together. A slower song came on and he reached those arms up, up, up, and we rocked back and forth together in a little circle in our living room.

After Addie and DaDa joined us for a crazy little dance party, we needed to start winding it down and get ready for bed.

But first, Zack, who had left the room, came running back in to where I was, tugged on my hand, and looked up at me with those smiling dark blue eyes.

“I wuv you, Momma.”

I’m so glad the supper was late.

Yellow car tracks

Sometimes, I forget to stop. To just stop and observe and enjoy and not worry about tomorrow or next day or even the next five minutes. To let the dishes sit in the sink another hour and to use a high-pitched princess voice or a mean and tough fighting turtle voice amidst a backdrop of laughter.

So today, I stopped.

I spent my morning with a little girl who seemed to appreciate my pause and to notice my effort. She wrapped herself around me like a pretzel, petting my hair and singing me songs and stopping to tell me “You never be sad again. You are my happy girl. You… I make you happy.” How could you argue that?

And so I was Aurora and she was Cinderella and we spent two straight hours crawling around and playing pretend.

I had to take the dog to the groomers (And yes, you should ask Scott about why his beloved puppy may or may not have a rhinestone crown and a ponytail, muhahaha) and we made it into an adventure.

It took far longer to get coats and boots on and then shovel the car out of the snow then the time it took to walk Izzie inside the building that was just four blocks away.  But when we returned to the car and Addie said, “I love adventure!”, I just couldn’t resist. So we drove around for a few minutes and looked for a tree and a heart and other fun landmarks. We got home just in time to get Zack off of the bus and my sweet girl was watching me from the living room window, waving and smiling.

And then we made baked goods because… well, because Addie came into the kitchen, sat down in the chair and proclaimed, “I help Momma cook.” And so now we have two dozen lemon bars.

Just now, I heard some noise from Zack’s room during naptime and so I went in to see what stall tactic he was working today. We’ve pretty much given up on an official naptime for him, but created a fun “nook” in his oversize closet with some books and blankets. We figure a quiet time is better than Mommy losing her sanity.

I peeked in through the crack of the doorway, and saw him hunched over pieces of his yellow car track. He had put about four curvy pieces together and was struggling with the last two parts. He looked up at me and said, very quietly, “Stuck.”

I sat down on the carpet next to him and didn’t put it together for him, but just brushed a blonde strand out of his eyes and encouraged him to keep trying. And when he did, after what felt like the longest five minutes of my life, he looked up at me with the widest grin and such twinkling eyes and wrapped his arms around my neck in a hug.

“Wuv you, Momma.”

I could have ignored the noise or not made an unnecessary dessert. I could have checked more e-mails or washed those dishes.

But today, I lived. I loved.

And I created adventures and soaked in successes.

Smells like apples in here…

… so I’ll be brief.

I created some thinly-sliced apples a bit of cinnamon sugar on top of them and it’s just about time to pull them out of the oven and hope that this delicious aroma never leaves the house.

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But I had to share a few things that I’m falling in love with this week.

Like the way he looks at everyone and everything with love. And how he hugged his TSS today when she came to the house. And how he never keeps both socks off on any given day.

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And the way she lines her crayons and her blocks up with such perfectionism and dedication. And how she is picking out ridiculous outfits every day now.

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I even love the animals who have been camping out on my lap while I finish crocheting a blanket.

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And I love the feeling of my camera in my hands.

The sounds of laughter from another room and the warmth in my heart when I stand in a doorway and they don’t know I’m there.

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I hope your house smells like apples and pets keep you warm and laughter surrounds you.

Where we are

One of my resolutions on the 1st (I wrote a long list this year) was to blog more often. I’m hoping we can all pretend that the first two weeks of the new year without a post never even happened and we can start working on this resolution from here on out, OK?

One of the reasons we haven’t had a blog post is because we’ve been so busy (Wendy’s photography business and Mary Kay team, visiting family, meetings with Zack’s school and much more). The other reason why we haven’t had a blog post is because among all of that craziness, I’m working really, really hard to disconnect more often and for longer periods of time and just be living in the quiet moment of Now. So, the kids and I have been playing pretend games together and Scott and I have enjoyed time together with some new favorite shows and even a game or two. I sometimes get so stuck on what I should be doing; who I should be helping; what I should be planning… that I forget about me and about Scott, Zack and Addie. No more of that nonsense. It’s all about balance.

So here we are.

I woke up a few days ago and just felt like we were on the cusp of something huge; something much greater than just a new year or a new month. We have spent so much of the past year transitioning from one home to another, one job to another, one lifestyle to another, that I finally feel as though we are ready to just live it now. To just be where we are and not where we are going or where we were.

Life is such an amazing adventure. I just want to soak up every minute of my journey.

Zack and Addie are the most wonderful little humans I’ve ever known. I might be biased.

Addie is so quick and witty. She greeted me at 7 a.m. today by shouting “Open the door, please, it’s good morning!” And when I opened the door, she reached out with her hand, shook mine and said, “Glad to meet you, Momma.”

She just continuously makes me laugh. More than four months after moving in to our home, she still asks her grandparents and random strangers if they want to come see her new room.

Her imagination is insane. She jumps from princesses in peril to babies and towers and hammering things that need fixed all within about 20 minutes. And there is so much drama! She knows how to work a pouty lip and lower her eyes and glance up at you through her dark eyelashes. You can’t not smile, I guarantee it.

We had some trouble with her stubbornness and strong disposition, but now we are getting a better handle on how to make her want to be a good girl instead of just going into discipline-the-bad-girl mode. She is relatively quick to clean up her toys, many times without me even asking, and she’s even more tolerant about sharing and brother hugs.

I love her quiet moments so very much.

The other day, I think we both wanted and needed some cuddly time together, so I suggested we watch a show under the blankets together while Zack was at school. I suggested princess movies and Bubble Guppies and even Dr. Seuss.

“No, momma,” She said. “I want to watch Momma’s show.”

I didn’t think it would last, but I gave it a try and flipped on the last 20 minutes of a terribly cheesy movie I watch on repeat whenever I get 20 minutes to catch my breath or eat a snack. She watched it all with me and held my hand tight. Near the end, she pointed to the lead female character, in a slightly sad scene, and told me that it was Momma.

But then quickly, she turned to look at me, put my face in her hands and said, “But Momma is happy because Addie makes Momma happy.”

She’s correct.

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And the Z-Man. Oh, how he is growing in so many ways in these recent weeks.

We are moving forward with getting him an aide for school and at home (about 14 hours/week total to start) and as long as the Commonwealth approves it, he’ll have someone by his side within the next two weeks. HIs most recent IEP meeting to discuss our plan for him for the next year, went well, all things considered.

It’s never easy to read a booklet on the most minute details of your firstborn. It’s never an enjoyable experience to hear things like “lifetime of needing special assistance” and “safety issues to himself” or words like “delay” and “lacking.” It doesn’t matter that we’ve done these types of meetings numerous times. It doesn’t matter that we are always grateful for them and for the handful of people in the room who care so much about Zack that it’s almost like he’s theirs, too. For me, it’s always like a rehashing of his Down Syndrome diagnosis. I grieve for a day or two, and then, we’re all OK. And I begin moving a thousand miles an hour to work on new ideas and areas of concentration. We’re asking a lot of “wh” questions (What color is that? Where is this?) to work on speech and we’ve got a lot of work to do to keep him attending to tasks without disrupting others or posing a safety concern to himself. But we have plans and we have dreams and they are all big and we are so excited.

Zack’s teacher spoke of his potential and she did it in such a proud way that I think “potential” is my current favorite word. Isn’t it exhilarating what power ‘potential’ has? You can do amazing things and be amazing. You can work to reach your potential because no one’s potential is just handed to them. Potential is a beautiful thing.

Zack has a good friend at school named Maggie. She’s a very quiet, shy girl who doesn’t typically like to be touched or disrupted, especially if she’s feeling a little anxiety. But for whatever reason, Zack can approach Maggie in any situation and hug her or hold her hand and she always lets him. This morning, it was just Zack and Maggie on the van to school. When we opened the door and he saw her, Zack just smiled and kept saying her name over and over like a song. Before I closed the door, I saw they were already holding hands.

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So here’s to more blogs. And to potential. And to holding hands and making people happy. Because that’s right where we are now.

The Liebster Award

Our sweet little Zee Family blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award!

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Fellow Momma Jess from Give me Strength, a heart-felt blogger, warrior, balancer of all crazy things in this life, put this blog on a growing list of talented, funny, beautiful people in the blogging community to have received this acknowledgement.

The Liebster Award is meant to encourage and promote other bloggers within the blogging community. “Liebster,” a German word, means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, lovely, pleasant, valued or welcome.

WOW!
First, let me take a moment and tell you about Jess. Our paths crossed only briefly in person, but despite both of us moving, adding some kids, changing our lives all around and up and down, we’ve kept in touch thanks to social media. Jess started blogging just a few months ago. I’ll never forget her FaceBook post that basically said, “Thinking about a blog… should I?”

YES, I screamed into my phone’s FB app.
And then I proceeded to write a probably very long response comment about how it is a calming therapy for me and how much I would love to see what she had to say. She did not disappoint. Her blog absolutely lives up to the tagline “laughter and encouragement…” She writes consistently, which I appreciate, and honestly, which I admire. She has made me think for hours after I leave her page and I’m off doing some chore or task.
So, thank you, Jess.

OK, so this award has rules! And I’m trying desperately to be a rule follower, not breaker, in my old age!

1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you. (Done!)
2. Answer 11 questions the blogger gives you. (Next!)
3. Give 11 facts about yourself. (oooooh!)
4. Nominate 11 other blogs. (So, they’re supposed to have less than 200 followers — some of mine have more than that and some I don’t know! So I might be breaking a rule! AH!)
5. Let them know you nominated them.
6. Give those bloggers 11 questions to answer.

Alright. Here are my questions from Jess and my answers:
1. What is the one thing that you want most to accomplish this year?

Balance. Did I answer that too quickly? I’m getting much better at it all — mom, wife, housewife, photographer, Mary Kay, family, friends… sometimes I can’t do it very well in one day or one week, and often, I forget to take care of me! I’m highly considering a day or weekend completely away and all by myself, disconnected! GASP!

2. What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I’m caring about others, almost to a fault. I love making people happy, I love the idea of memories and traditions. Sometimes, I definitely set expectations too high.

3. What is something that is guaranteed to make you laugh?

Addie-isms. That girl thinks of the craziest things. This morning, she said she had to go see Santa. When I asked why, she responded with, “Santa sing with me.” What??? Just now, she handed me her empty snack bowl. “I please, I just, it’s just I want more fishes.”

4. When you want/need to relax, what do you do?

Oh man, relaxing rocks! I like any and all of the following: coffee or tea, a good book, an old classic movie, crocheting, a walk or run outside, taking photos, calling someone just because, or just a random drive.

5. How did you come up with the name of your blog?

I’m not very original! Last name starts with “z!” Zee Family! In the very beginning of this blog (I actually had two earlier versions of this blog!), I even did things like “zee baby” and “zee house” — man that got old really quickly!

6. What or who inspired you to begin blogging?

Keeping in touch with long-distance loved ones and creating sort of a virtual recap of our day-to-day lives for the kids to enjoy one day.

7. Name your guilty pleasure.

M&Ms. I have entire bags of them, various flavors, hidden. I don’t eat a lot at once, but man oh man do I LOVE them. (Please e-mail for address and favorite flavors, haha just kidding!)

8. What is your least favorite household chore?

Either emptying the dishwasher or putting laundry away. I love washing dishes by hand and I really don’t mind doing or folding laundry. But I hate putting all those nice warm clean things away! Weird.

9. Do you utilize social media as a blogger? If so, how?

A bit here and there for this blog, mostly just on FaceBook. With my photography blog and business, I use Pinterest (to share ideas with future clients), Instagram (to share a lot of behind-the-scenes moments) and FaceBook.

10. To date, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Being a Mom. Seriously, this is a great job. Super difficult. So frustrating sometimes. Always questioning yourself. But I love every moment I have with Z & A.

11. Where is your favorite place to shop?

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Etsy shopping, but typically I HATE shopping. My most recent purchases are 90% for my photography or for someone else!

My 11 random facts:
1.I have an insanely blended/mixed family. Dad, stepmom, two stepsisters, a half-sister, a half-brother and a gaggle of nieces and nephews. I grew up with an entire family that I wasn’t even related to and I LOVE them beyond words because blood never mattered.

2. I am so addicted to coffee. I typically have at least two to three good-sized cups a day. A couple of times a week, that goes WAY up. I couldn’t even quit 100% during my pregnancies. Doctor said all of the side effects were not worth it, so I went down to one cup of caffeinated and sometimes a decaf or half-half cup.

3. Despite my love of coffee, I’ve never been to the coffee shop that’s literally like five blocks from the house. I need to do that.

4. I’ve never had a speeding ticket…

5. … because I’ve talked my way out of them.

6. I love Wikipedia and IMDB. I will Wikipedia at least five or six times a day. (Who’s that guy in the commercial? Can a conjoined twin have a child? Where is most of the world’s heroin made?)

7. New England is my favorite place in the world. I love the history, the culture, all the great writers from there. And I love lots of snow and mountains.

8. Despite my love for reading, my lowest grade in my first 12 years of schooling came from 6th Grade Reading. Ms. Grob said I was terrible at comprehending what I read. I cried over that C+ for a solid week.

9. Hurdling was a bad life decision. I did it to help out my team my senior year of high school. I absolutely sucked at it, first of all. But, because my technique was so poor, I wound up getting a torn hip flexor on one side and bursitis in both hips. I feel it to this day. Also, one day I ran into a hurdle so hard that I fell back completely onto the track and tried to regroup before anyone noticed. But my blood-soaked body and limp gave me away.

10. I love to laugh. I’ve been known to belly-laugh and snort.

11. Nicknames include: Wendell, Coal Car, Gemela, Dubya, Breezy, Baby Girl, Pookie.

The questions I’m sending to my favorite bloggers:

1. What has been the biggest surprise in your blogging journey so far?

2. What three things in a “typical day” make you happiest?

3. Share a favorite photo with you in it.

4. Where’s your favorite getaway?

5. What most concerns you about the next generation?

6. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?

7. Name three fears.

8. Who was the last person to encourage you and how?

9. What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned this year?

10. Where do you see your blog in five years?

11. Have you ever hit “publish” on a post you regret?

And finally, my nominees for the Liebster Award:


Barren to Beauitful

The Life and Writings of Kate Baer
Give Me Strength (Jess, I had to send it right back to you, I’m sorry!)
Tales From the Trenches
Our Epic Story
Chasing Rainbows
Nicole Schwalm Photography
When the Heart Speaks
Mommy Life After PhD
Being Jane
Becoming Jolie

‘Love is who we are… “

I am listening to Sara Bareilles’ “Love is Christmas” and “Winter Song” on repeat with giggles in the air and assorted play food on the floor. My daughter offers me a “teapot” and my son is singing random words to the song with a smile on his face.

We are preparing for a wintery coating and a couple of days without Daddy. My heart is content despite the shoveling and the missing I’m about to do.

“I don’t care if it’s gonna rain, our little room is warm and stable…”

*
We shared an amazing belated Thanksgiving celebration with 10 of the best loved ones. Giggles and good smells and gifts and delicious food. People who traveled far and wide just for a few hours in our new home.

We were cramped and it was loud but my gosh, was there love. In chickey kisses and hand pats and camera clicks and bites of yumminess.

“I don’t care if the house is packed or the strings of light are broken…”

*
One of my bestest friends and my favorite 2014 bride, Kacey (the Caboose!) and her hubby Drew came to our house on Saturday for a visit and again, full heart. They trekked up the TurnPike in a torrential downpour but arrived with smiles and excitement. We shared coffee and local pizza and silly games with the kids. We played adult games after bedtime for babies and even shared a glass or two of wine. We watched their wedding video and laughed over how I messed up the bouquet not once, but twice! Addie thought Kacey was a princess and both kids were attached to Drew the entire time. (The cat, too!)

I am so constantly grateful for loved ones who make the effort and sacrifice just for some time in our world.

“All we need is your best my love; that’s all anyone ever wanted…”

*On Sunday, we went to a fun Breakfast with Santa event. I finally located the local Down Syndrome support group, PODS of NEPA, and we were invited to their event this weekend.

We weren’t sure to expect, and honestly, I had to do some convincing to get Scott excited about it at all, but boy, were we surprised.

We walked through the doors of a catering hall 40 minutes north of us and before we spotted the beautiful decorations and centerpieces, the magnets and other 3-21 giveaway items, the kindness of strangers, we noticed hundreds of people. At least 50 families who “get it” or “got it” or are “getting it” just like us.

Babies with almond eyes and adults with kind smiles; verbal and nonverbal kiddos of all ages; talk of aides and school and independent living.

We sat with a family of four — a nine-year-old boy with DS, his 12-year-old big brother and their mom and dad. By the end of the morning, with coats on, we were celebrating their son’s bravery in finally trusting Santa’s lap and exchanging business cards and well wishes and promises of friendship.

I just kept looking around, whispering “Look at this, my love,” to the toddler on my lap.

I watched little Alex stroke his Mom’s cheek with a piece of hair he pulled from behind her ear and told her how Z-Man does the same thing to me. We shared one of my favorite smiles and a nod.

And while Zack was quite happy to meet Santa, Addie was not so pleased — at least not until the snowman character picked her up for a few minutes. Sorry for crashing your photos, other kids! She tells us on repeat still:

“Addie cried… I just wanted to see Snowman… Snowman said ‘hi’ to me…”

Even after five goodbyes, when I spotted Alex’s mom in the lobby on our way to the car, I went in for the sort-of-creepy-mom-who-needs-to-get-out-more hug. And she hugged me back tightly. And Scott and I both keep saying how we feel much less alone now.

“I’ll be your harvester of light and send it out tonight so we can start again…”

I think as I get older, it’s not that I realize what’s truly important — it’s simply that I appreciate it all — the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the dreams and the surprises.

Even something as simple as a makeshift tea party with a snowman-phobic little girl and her hair-petting big brother is an absolute treasure.

We have more Christmas carols to sing, snuggles to snuggle and traditions to turn into memories.

My life is very good. My life is filled with love.