What they don’t tell you

There are a lot of tough careers out there — I feel like retail and hospitality, both of which I’ve worked in, are pretty intense and stressful; and the ups and downs of a journalism career had its own share of adrenaline rushes, good and bad.

But this stay-at-home mom adventure I’ve been on these past two months is the most incredible experience I’ve ever felt in my life.

It gives the most amazing highs of highs. Until you’re a mom, I’m sorry but you just may not get it. The patting of a little boy’s hand on your back and in your hair and his sweet, slobbery kisses. The way you look into her eyes and see yourself and the way you stop in your tracks because she really is that smart.

I love the snuggles on sick days, being the only one who can make it all better. I’m grateful for the trips to the park and the walks to see the ducks; the first days of school and the scheduling of playdates. It’s a lovely little world.

Until reality sets in.

Because there is this whole other side to raising kids full-time that is so incredibly painful, in ways you never knew you could hurt.

I talked with one of my dearest friends last night and over the phone we whispered about how we’ve thought about punting our children across the room. Not very lovely, huh? It was nice to know I wasn’t alone and we laughed it out for a few moments, boosting moods on a difficult day. But the sad truth is that some days it is so very hard to be a  good mom for 15 straight hours on six or less hours of sleep to children who can squeal in such a high pitch that neighborhood dogs must lose their minds. A victory is not hurling your child across the room. (I never have, by the way).

You see, it’s a life of repetition.

“No” times 48.

“Please get out of the cat littler.”

“I said NO TOUCH!”

“Why are you in the toilet???”

“We don’t throw books at our sister.”

“Get out of the cat litter. NOW.”

You watch your tax paperwork get drawn on with crayons. You see scribbles on your work calendar. The remote gets hidden in the garbage. Then later, in a couch cushion. And then in the goldfish bag. And the cracker explosion on the floor and a leaking sippy cup.

You see, it all happens while you’re picking up the books and cleaning up strewn cat litter and doing silly things like attempt to fold a load of laundry and use the bathroom. Or you’re feeding the cats (don’t worry, their bowls will be thrown on the floor later) or taking the dogs out (while a child sneaks into the mudroom and you’ll later find a spiky toy in your left boot.

And then.

You hear the toilet flush.

And none of that takes into account a severe case of cabin fever from all three of you during the coldest, snowiest, most severe winter you’ve experienced in this state.

Pleas of “Outside” have to be ignored because the wind chill is -15 degrees and the snow is two feet high. There’s only so many crafts you can make and PlayDoh you can smash and cut and roll into little balls.

And you can’t help but feel bitterness towards your spouse who is enjoying 45-minute car rides with music and scenery and who interacts with adults for hours every single day. He’s not singing the Thomas & Friends theme song and he’s definitely not folding the same shirt for the second time after it — and the rest of the laundry basket — was pulled down from the table. You know, while you were sweeping up cat litter. And then he enjoys a night out once a week for sports and friends. Adult friends, again. And he works long hours and is tired when he gets home, so can you blame him for relaxing for a few minutes on the couch?

On the plus side, I know now how to cook a decent meal (meat, potato, vegetables — you betcha!) while yelling “HOT!” 73 times in 34 minutes. I can also wash dishes while hopping on one foot. Because the left foot is balancing the dishwasher door semi-closed because a certain 21-month-old loves to take the dirty dishes out while you load up the machine.

Somewhere in there, I’m sending e-mails and Facebook messages and attempting conference calls to further two independent, self-employed businesses (shameless plug for www.marykay.com/wzook and wendyzookphotography.wordpress.com HERE). I am so motivated and so determined and frankly, I’m kicking butt… but imagine what I could do with two solid hours of dedicated time every now and then? Silly, I know.

Oh, and none of this takes into account a trip to the Emergency Room with your eldest, where you alternate between near hysteria and eerie calm because he can’t catch his breath between coughs and he just looks at you with such discomfort and sadness.

It’s here that two ladies and one man in scrubs attack you from all sides, asking about your street address and insurance, medical history and length of symptoms. While your three-year-old clings to you, sobbing hysterically, batting away the stethoscope.

You pace the room for an hour, you hold up his arms while he cries during an x-ray. You frantically tell the nurse about the hole in his heart, just in case you forgot or she didn’t hear. “And you remember he has Down Snydrome, right???” you yell through an open door over a blonde head still screaming.

You spend four sleepless nights with him on the couch, aggravating an old running injury but catching up on your Olympics coverage, mumbling over and over, “Shhh, shhhh, it’s alright. Sleep, baby.”

Somehow, the laundry never ends, despite the fact that you’re lucky if you change your clothes three times a week. Everyone else in the house has multiple outfit changes a day, however. Plus, you’re finally noticing all of the neglected housework — the dirty curtains that need washed and towels and such. There’s closets to organize and couch cushions to clean and floors to mop and clothes to donate and socks to match and, well, this list, my friends, never ends.

So, don’t forget the Mommies. The ones who clean snot and clip fingernails among tears. The ones who push aside every selfish impulse (minus a venting, rambling blog post, it seems), to take care of their family.

It’s an illusion. We like you to walk through our door and say, “Gee, how does she do it?”

We, meanwhile, ask ourselves at least once a day, usually while running over our to-do list at bedtime or while hiding in the bathroom after a particularly traumatizing temper tantrum: “How can I do this?”

But you can.

I can.

She can.

I have to go now — the kids just threw all the books onto the floor and I can’t find the remote.

I hope it’s not in the toilet.

 

 

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Sooooo big!

Time flies… when you’re raising a toddler?

Our little 16-month-old is not so little and it’s becoming more evident by the day.

Nothing puts it all on display quite like a haircut — The Dude’s fifth haircut!

Before, with Daddy (and Eva the Cat):

After, past bedtime but lookin’ oh-so-handsome:

But it’s more than just the physical things. There is the exploring, the crab-crawling, the grabbing, the laughing, the burst of babbles, the messes, the tickles, the beauty of any given simple moment.

There is the exercising, the practicing, the standing, the self-feeding; the thousand clues that hard work really does pay off if you just don’t give up.

Zack had his most recent check-up at the pediatrician yesterday and all went well! Dr. D. was impressed with his mouth full of teeth (at least five have poked through!), his quick crawl, amazing appetite and our many other exciting moments we can’t help but brag about — including Dr. D’s newest patient next year, Baby Z2b 2.0!

We practice the word “baby” and the phrase “big brother” with Z-Man, but Dude would much prefer to try “ball” or “book.” At least he’s not crying when we say “big brother” to him like he did at first.

It’s hard not to get a bit sentimental and reflective this time of year, but I’m overall really happy with our little world. We are in a better place than we were this time last year and we have an incredible year and future ahead of us.

But it’s still just one day at a time.

One precious moment at a time.

One.

Thanks for reading!

Silence isn’t a bad thing

Miss us?

Especially the blond-haired, blue-eyed, drooly-smile guy?

Sorry ’bout that.

We’re doing great. Beyond great. Things have been busy and things have been so, so beautiful, that I’ve just chosen a few quiet weeks to mull it all over in my mind rather than boring you with stories of how amazing my little man is… I mean, you knew that anyway, right?

It’s been a great few weeks.

We got through the cardiologist and urologist appointments easier than imagined. It’s still not easy watching ultrasound goo coat your 14-month-old’s round little belly, hands flailing, tears streaming, but the results were good: one of his holes in his heart has closed up on its own; the other is slowly but surely doing the same. We go back in one year for a check-up.

The urologist appointment in Pittsburgh gave us an excuse to test out another of my hotel chain’s properties and to explore the Three Rivers city a bit, a mini-getaway if you will. Zack loves his new carseat and spent most of the trip waving at us from the backseat. I got the camera out and played around with cityscape images.

And Little Man is now going to be visited by a third Early Intervention friend — an occupational therapist who will work on feeding, drinking, textures and some self-sufficiency. She seems so sweet and she will fit in with our EI family (like Miss Sheri, our special instructor who brings us rice to put our hands in and PlayDoh to stretch and pull!) just fine.

New skills include standing — everywhere and anywhere — in his pack-n-play, a good morning salute from his crib each day, the landing step downstairs, pulling himself up at the couch cushions to say “hi” to Momma. He loves the new altitude, the new view and grins from ear to ear like the little show-off that he is, which we love almost as much as the feat itself.

I have absolutely fallen for Fall. Zack’s love for leaves, his big curious eyes as we uncover local treats — covered bridges with friends and lunch dates and playdates and the beauty of a light jacket and an Autumn breeze — have given me such an appreciation and love for the season myself. He is discovering and uncovering so much. I love that he’s taking us along with him for that ride.

But there are adventures to be had indoors, too.

Visits from a favorite uncle on his way to a Southwestern Adventure.

Coming home from work to see images like this:

And there are just a thousand other “everyday moments” that I pray I remember in six months, in five years, when Zack’s 30, when I’m 90. The moments that remind me that being a mother is the most amazing thing I have ever done and will ever do in my life.

(And now a big mysterious shout-out to a someone special who let me and some others know about her long-awaited, already-loved baby-to-be news. I won’t ruin your public-place-let-it-out-there sharing… but I’m so happy for you! xoxo)

So we’ve been quiet.

But we’ve been great.

And things will only get better.

*Z-Man and Momma are off to New Jersey to visit with family this weekend. We’ll share our adventure next week when we return!

The Dude grows big, Momma gets out

Happy weekend! (Momma has the day off today, hooray!)

The Dude had his six-month check-up at the doctor’s yesterday. He did great and, like everywhere else, was a huge hit with the staff.

First, the numbers. Zack weighs 16 pounds, 7 1/2 ounces and is 26 inches long. If you’re curious, his head has a circumference of 16 1/2 inches. (In December, he weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces, was 25 3/4 inches long and his head was 16 inches around).

If Zack had to make an acceptance speech for his two-plus-pound increase, I’m sure it would be something like this:

“I’d like to thank my rice cereal and my especially yummy wheat cereal. Oh, and my Momma and Daddy for piling it into my mouth one or two times a day. And I’d like to thank my formula, for always being there for me, even when I spit you up or projectile vomit you across the floor. I guess we all know that most of it really IS staying inside my belly.”

Now is a good time to say that growth charts are STUPID. I mean, first of all, how do they even come up with this crap? To say that at a certain age your baby should weigh x pounds or be y inches from head to toes? And aside from charts specifically for babies with Down Syndrome, which infuriates me even more, they have charts for babies born prematurely. I’m sure there’s a growth chart for babies who have red hair somewhere, too. Oh, and don’t forget about those babies who are just plain SMALL. Or LARGE.

You know how I measure my baby’s growth? He’s happy. He has a nice lil belly but it’s not keeping him from functioning or being healthy. Oh, and his length? Well, I’ll let you know in 25 years when he’s 5-feet tall. Or 6-foot, 10-inches. I meeaaaaan, really.

Moving on.

Zack has a couple of little things we’re still watching (things I doubt he’d want me to share with all of you, no offense) but no major problems, hooray! The doctor seems really pleased with him and still can’t believe how great he’s doing, being all Super Baby-like and showing off all the time, even in the doctor’s office. (By the way, our doctor had a daughter with Down Syndrome, so he’s more knowledgeable than we are with all of these things sometimes)

Z-Man had to get a couple of shots, but after five seconds, the tears were over and all was well.

 

Duders and I have had a great day together so far, although it would probably be a great afternoon if one (or both) of us took a nap. I’m referencing you, Mr. Baby Who Just Threw All His Stuffed Animal Friends Out of the Swing in a Fit of One-Quarter Irish Rage.

 

I’ve finally given in to all of the attempts and pleas (mostly from my husband) to get me out of the house/away from the baby/ get some Me Time and am leaving in just a couple of hours to spend the weekend with my dear, dear, DEAR friend Jeannine and her boyfriend Jeff.

Just me.

No baby.

Heck, no hubby.

I am beyond excited to go and have had just enough time to really accept the idea that Zack will be just fine without me but also that I will be just fine without him without feeling guilty looking forward to some selfish Me Time.

But I still spent 20 minutes apologizing to Scott last night, who is handling this all so well and is being patient and totally understanding. I still think he’s going to lock the door behind me when I leave tonight, though, just to make sure I really leave. He may have the baby for a day (that’s all it really amounts to when you take into account The Dude’s early bedtime) but I think he’s looking forward to me having some Me Time too. I’ve been so stressed lately and in such a funk that before some other exciting events (visits from friends and family, a big case to cover for work, oh, and my birthday!), I know I need a clean slate.

 

It’s just that I can’t help but know I’ll be missing out on some great feats and accomplishments.

 

 

 

 

 

Missing some awesome smiles. And raspberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some sweet kisses from both of my guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really excited to, for just a few hours, not think about balancing it all — house, baby, marriage, work, ME — worrying if I might drop one of them (it’s usually that “me” part) and wondering if it’s OK to fail every now and then.

I can almost guarantee that the baby is fed, clean and giggling. And that the laundry is done or being done and the floor is as clean as possible with five animals. I do my 40-plus hours of work to the best of my ability every week and I never go to bed without telling my husband I love him — at least five times.

 

But sometimes. Hmm. Often times. I forget to tell myself that I love me. (Ooooh, that’s SO cheesy) I forget to read a book. Or finish the book. I forget to put my feet up and turn my mind OFF.

Sometimes, I just forget.

 

 

I’m excited about finding the Me that I’ve buried under all of my other “responsibilities” and I’m really, truly looking forward to that homecoming on Sunday.

 

I hope there will be kisses.

 

 

 

 

For now, I look forward to shared thoughts and giggles with a lady who knows that ME, that real and true me. And who always puts her in her place.

Oh, and there might be pirates.

And voodoo.

 

 

Have a great weekend.

Baby check-up

Zack had a pediatrician check-up appointment today.

I think Dr. D is about the only doctor I’ve EVER been excited to go to. Z-man’s doc is a cool fella — a sharp dresser (a Hawaiian shirt our first visit, an awesome multi-piece suit this time), an awesome personality and first-hand experience as the parent of a child with Down Syndrome.

Scott and I (and Zack!) just love him!

 

Anyway, at Zack’s visit, he weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces and was about 26 inches long. And for all of you caring (cough, weirdos, cough) folks who care about this measurement, his head was 16 inches in circumference. And because most of you will have the question of “where does he fall compared to other babies” now, I found this at http://www.babycenter.com:

Based on the data you submitted, your child falls into the following percentiles:

Length = between percentile 75 and 90
Weight = between percentile 25 and 50
Head Circumference = between percentile 5 and 10

Of course there’s a growth chart for babies with Down Syndrome. According to charts provided by the National Down Syndrome Society (www.ndss.org), Zack’s length is above the 90th percentile for length. His weight is between the 75th and 90th percentiles. And his noggin is about at the 75th percentile.

A couple of issues that we were concerned about were addressed with a no-big-deal attitude from our doctor, so I am breathing a little easier tonight. The doctor was so very pleased with Zack and told us that we were truly blessed with how well he’s doing so far.

 

 

It couldn’t end on a very happy note though, as The Dude had to get two shots in the chunky part of his thighs.

He cried for a minute or so but was comforted rather quickly and off we went, with two Band-Aids to mark the scene of the crime.

 

 

One of the things I love about Dr. D’s office is the inspiration — not just from a positive doctor and his obvious compassion for Zack, but for the messages throughout his office. In the waiting room is a sign that says “Worry ends where faith begins.” So true, right?

Then today, I noticed this message hanging in the room we were in. It was perfect for my latest mindset.

It read, in part:

“All men are driven by faith or fear — one or the other — for both are the same. Faith or fear is the expectation of an event that hasn’t come to pass or the belief in something that cannot be seen or touched…”

“… Faith is to believe in what is not seen. The reward of faith is to see what one believed…”

(and then my favorite part…)

“In the game of life, nothing is less important than the score at halftime. The tragedy of life is not that man loses, but that he almost wins.”

 

 

 

Have faith, friends. It’s all around us.

 

 

 

Sometimes staring you right in the face.