The Skating Rink

We’re all about adventures.

Starting on New Years Eve. (We didn’t wait for some silly date on the calendar to regroup our family this year and it was WONDERFUL).

So despite a terrorist issue in Rochester on Dec. 31 (sigh), we trekked out as planned to the nearby skating rink for our family’s first ice skating adventure.

Addie has been gliding around the house in her “skate shoes” (Elsa sneakers) for weeks now and was completely in awe when we told her our plan.

If you wanted to fast forward about 10 paragraphs, you’d learn this:

It was an incredible experience in the end. But it took some work.

 

We were toying with over-stimulated children, funked-up routines and the beginning of bedtime, not to mention potential crowds and a new activity. Scott and I hadn’t been on ice in probably 10-plus years and the kids have never seen it other than at a hockey game a couple of months ago.

 

The crowds weren’t too bad and we got our admission and skate rentals with little fuss or delay.

And then the skates.

I feel like one of the many parenting classes they should offer when you decide you want to have children (in addition to Do You Have Common Sense and Don’t Do Stupid Things That Will Get You on the 5pm News) is How to Put Skates on Young Children While Maintaining Some Calmness and Not Creating a Scene.

Addie’s went on relatively easy, especially once I reminder her that she’d be on the ice in a few minutes. She stood right up and was walking in the skates like it was no big deal. Shaking my head, I tell ya, this kid.

But we had some trouble with Zack. Our initial pair we got was too small. He was already in Meltdown Mode after the first attempt and nearly lost his mind wailing on the carpet of the locker room as we waited for Scott to return with the second pair. It’s all good, because we got them on and soon enough, we were marching to the Kiddie Rink like the Jets and the Sharks in the opening scenes of West Side Story. I’m pretty sure we thought we were a big deal, with a bit of swagger and some cocky smiles. Fools!

Scott took Zack and soon realized the Z-Man was not going to do a thing. Not one ounce of balance or coordination and 40 pounds of scrambling, laughing kid in his arms. Addie wasn’t too bad, but just got way too excited and was pretty much attempting a triple axel on her first step on the ice. I was much worse a skater than she was, so our first lap (OK, our first eight) were PAINFULLY slow.

Scott was so worn out from essentially hunching over and carrying Zack on the ice that the two guys took a break. As Addie and I came around the straightaway towards them I saw Scott and the grandmother-woman-watcher next to him interacting and she was waving towards her granddaughter and family on the ice, using a red chair-like device that’s an option for teaching skating.

And she gave us their red chair. She grabbed my hand as I steadied my hand on the wall in front of her. Scott was positioning Zack in the red thingy-ma-jiggy and I was trying not to feel the screaming chant of “Down Syndrome comes to skating rinks, too!” And this stranger patted my hand and said “Your family is beautiful. I hope this makes your night a special memory.”

And then Scott’s back was less sore, Zack was giggling lap after lap and Addie was showing off for the five older girls she had already made friends with. And I was there, the mother of this crazy clan, taking it all in. And trying not to fall down and really ruin the moment.

The craziest part of it all?

That we’re looking into ice skating lessons for BOTH kids.

 

 

 

I see you…

You’re over there, pushing the cutest little blond boy on the red swing. He’s smiling a sleepy, peaceful smile that gets bigger when you surprise him with a tickle up his legs.

I see you twist around anxiously to watch a ponytailed three-year-old hop up fearlessly to the top of the tall slide, the one you think she’s too small for, but can’t convince her otherwise. I can actually see you hold your breath as you let her have this independent moment and try to keep it cool for the giggling boy next to you.

I see you.

You’re glancing at the little boy’s almond eyes with such a mix of love, compassion, worry, fear, hope, I can almost feel the heaviness in your shoulders. My gosh, that love. The pride you have when he makes a statement third-person about “Zacky” wanting to swing or needing a drink. You love those muffled words, those little phrases that you understand better than anyone else and that have taken hours upon hours of therapies and practices.

You’ve scooped up Miss Ponytail, twirling her and brushing back the fine strands that never stay in place. Her laughter inspires your laughter and Big Brother travels over to join the fun.

I see you.

Your embarrassment over the tantrum that was much worse to you than anyone else.

The mix of fear and exhaustion when he runs away, not understanding danger. You understand it too well.

I can imagine you holding a dance party in your living room. Some CCR on Pandora and four little hands mimicking your shakes.

I see you when she jumps up in bed at 5:45a.m., full of energy and questions. Your mind hasn’t woken up yet so its all about pulling her in close and smelling her hair and squeezing her tight.

I can imagine the way you internally jump for joy when, instead of his usual “No Kiss-a Me,” he asks you to stay with him in bed at nighttime and you pet his hair and caress the freckle behind his right ear and sing his favorite song.

I see your hands. That push swings for contented boys and steady brave little girls. That wipe tears and create imaginary pixie dust in different colors to solve different problems. That pick up strewn toys and flatten PlayDoh.

The hips that have held infants then toddlers and now 40-pound kiddos. They handle bouncing camera bags and your treasured DSLR.

Eyes that pore over chromosome diagrams and research papers and photo editing. That attempt the stack of neglected magazines.

I see you. Doing your best and trying so hard. You do your best when you don’t even try at all, when you just let it be, let it happen.

I see you. Do you see yourself?

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A journey of faith

The lil Zee Family has come a long way, lived a thousand lives, journeyed a hundred journeys. One of these journeys has been a journey of faith. In the near decade (!) that I have known Scott, we have had our ups and downs in terms of belief. Usually one of us was doing “well” — that is, learning more, reading more, attending more. The other wasn’t quite on the same page.

When Scott and I experienced our marital problems in 2013, I found myself again questioning faith. I’ve always believed in fate and in destiny but I have found myself constantly questioning the plausibility of a God and a religion and a world in which so much bad happens and so many questions are left unanswered. I mean, I studied journalism — for me, my world is all about getting answers.

It was actually seeing the positive change in attitudes, personalities and just pure joy in some of my younger coworkers that got me trying this Faith Thing again. I listened to their stories and their discussions. I joined in, slowly, with questions. Then I attended an informal study group of theirs. And soon, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, about all these stories and names and how they suddenly made sense even to me.

When we moved recently, one of the first things Scott wanted to find was a home church. We literally picked a random church to start (as in it was very close to our new home, looked beautiful and seemed a good place to begin) and an even more random denomination (Methodist, or, as we advertise it, the perfect balance between our two backgrounds. Scott grew up in the Brethren churches (think of it as a pacifist cross between Mennonites and Baptist, with footwashing, lots of music and an emphasis on community service and brotherhood.) I grew up with tradition and ritualistic Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic experiences.

We were so impressed with our first Sunday there, and then with how people remembered our names (all four of us!) and where we last sat when we returned a week later. We were so glad when the pastor visited us at our home that week just to get to know us. Services make you think and answer questions instead of raising more of them.

And so, months later, it seemed only natural when this first shot-in-the-dark church and its pastor asked us if we wanted to join officially.

So, this weekend, our family stood up at the front of the church. Scott and I made promises. Zack and Addie received water from our beloved pastor and were introduced to our congregation as family members watched from the pews.

I still believe to an extent in fate and destiny. But now, I feel comforted knowing that there is faith. Our faith, to share together and learn together, like the late night Bible readings and discussions we share.

I am far from perfect and still wish to be a better Christian, especially to lead a better example for my children. But I am trying. And I am on this journey. And one day, Zack and Addie can choose their journey, too, whether it’s here or somewhere else or nowhere at all. They have the foundation for it.

A banner hangs in each of their rooms reminding them of this day and reminding me, every time I walk past their doorways, of a very unlikely and special journey.

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.

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.

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.

‘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.

Thankful thoughts

Addie and I were snuggling under the covers at bedtime last night singing songs about her favorite show, movie and book characters. It went something like this:

“Mickeeeeeeeey, Mickeeeeeeeey, Mickeeeeeeey…”
“Peter Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit…”
Then, a nod to Puss ‘n’ Boots, the feisty feline from the Shrek movies, almost caused me to fall out of the tiny little twin bed.
“Boooooooze…. ohhhh Booooooze… is a cat.”

And as I’m wiping away tears of laughter and snorting like a lady, she holds my face in her hands and looks at me very, very seriously.

“I eat you up, you love me so.”

And then Scott and I switch rooms and I go to lay down next to the Z-Man, prepping myself for the ritual routine of “Stay in bed. Stay in your room. Please don’t open your door.”
But he’s already dozing!
His eyes are so heavy and he’s barely even sucking on the thumb in his mouth.
He opens one eye, mouthes “Momma,” and he’s out with a smile. I pet his hair a few times and listen as his breathing goes to that sleeping place.

The ‘babies,’ though I still call them that, rarely let me have the baby moments now. They’re stubborn and strong-willed and independent in so many ways and I love that. But I miss the quiet moments, the singing, the giggles at bedtime. I miss being the last thing they see before a good nights’ rest.

In this time of gratitude, I am so thankful for them.
And the huge spectrum of moments they bring to my world. The good, the frustrating, the emotional, the pulling-my-hair-out ones. I wouldn’t trade a single one in, for they are part of the bigger picture of being blessed to just be their Momma.

To wake up and fight off sleep and reach clumsily for coffee while simultaneously urging a four-year-old that he can not wear only a diaper and boots to school while his little sister puts her Cheerios in a sand bucket and shouts to no one in particular something about a dragon stealing her amulet.

I’m grateful for Scott and his hard work, for allowing me to stay at home and fulfill some dreams for a while. Dreams of photography and these moments with the “babies.” I’m grateful for so many loved ones who reach out when I need a “right smack bottom” (It’s a Shrek thing) or need to vent to someone; to the family and friends who love me more than I think I deserve sometimes; and the ones traveling to be with us for a belated Thanksgiving celebration this week.

But of all the things in my life, I’m so very thankful to me — to the woman who, in rare beautiful moments, forgets fears and ignores the mess on the dining room floor and remembers to live THIS moment, be the Momma they need and I want to be and still not lose sight of the things that make me me.

Those moments — singing and giggling and whispering secrets to a sleeping blonde boy — I swear it’s for those moments that I am alive. I swear it’s those moments I feel most alive.

Be thankful. For the moments you have. Stop and smell the coffee, or at least see if you can get to the Keurig machine with a smile on your face. Start there, pause, look around, and voila. Your thankfulness lies in front of you.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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.

Snippets — On “new”

There’s a lot of “new” among us nowadays.
We spent a lot of time in our “old” planning for this New but really, we had no idea and yes, yes it was worth every minute of excruciating, stressful waiting.

Here’s a peek.

On Our Home
I love this place.
I could end the blurb right there, but let me tell you — I love it so much and for a thousand reasons.
This place is our home already, not just a house. I have such a large kitchen that I am constantly feeling like I get a workout walking from the stove to the sink and back to the stove. It’s just a terrible problem to have, geesh. But seriously, it’s exciting to cook dinners here and bake desserts. It’s the location of our back door, so the hubby walks through it every night just as the kids are getting on my last tiny, itty-bitty nerve and only milliseconds after I have somehow managed to put the house back together again after we’ve spent all day tearing it apart together.

I have my own (giant) laundry room with two brand-new appliances that sing songs when they’re done with a cycle and calculate via a little Robot Dance how dirty those clothes really are — it’s the little things, I tell you.

When I was in the house those first few days cleaning and prepping for boxes and furniture, I CONSTANTLY got lost upstairs. No, seriously. I would walk out of Addie’s room and turn left when I should turn right. And at least twice I nearly toppled down the stairs after a wrong turn.

So what that both bathrooms are set up in such a way that you have to sit sideways on the toilet when you pee so your knees don’t hit radiators — we have two full bathrooms!

I have an office to work out of, even if it’s become the last room to unpack. I may or may not be typing this with my feet propped up on a box of Mary Kay products.

Since Zack has begun school, Addie and I have started a routine of waiting for his bus on our enclosed front porch. I sip my coffee or guzzle some water, she reads her Elmo book in her Dora chair and a light breeze comes through the windows as I gaze about our street, taking in the neighbors and cars and houses and all that.

I even like our tiny yard and am grateful for the tiny amount of time it takes to mow now — and am so, so grateful there are no hills or steep slopes. I am planning next year’s herb garden and am on the hunt for some Autumn mums for our front.

There are New House cards on the counter, a new welcome mat with our last name leading out to the front porch and new coffee K-cups in the cupboard. Thanks, y’all.

Pat the Neighbor

On the night of our official move in to the house, we thought our cat Rocky got out of the house somehow. I was so upset and was trying so hard to not let it put a damper on such a special day. Scott and dog Izzie and I finally took off on a dusk walk around the neighborhood. About three houses up the one street, and a pleasant middle-aged, hard-working-and-you-can-tell-by-looking-at-him man named Pat introduced himself to us, helped look for the cat (which turned up inside the house, hmrph!) and spent several minutes talking to Scott about the neighborhood and neighbors and his time (35-plus years) here.
A night or two later while returning from the nearby park with the kids and there was Pat, waving to us and saying hello to us by name.
I was struggling with an old-school push mower my Dad gave us the other afternoon and Pat came out in his Steelers jersey, shook his head and wheeled his personal mower down to me.
“This will be easier,” he said. “Game’s on; I gotta go.”

For being only a few miles down the highway from Wilkes-Barre, a relatively large city in Northeastern PA, we feel like we are in quiet suburbia. Dogs are walked and kids go to the park and bicycles whizz past the house and the mailman walks down the street and makes sure your front door is latched every time she drops off a package. It’s relatively quiet and our location is incredibly convenient. We’ve discovered a handful of parks and attractions and events and are so excited to continue our exploration of the area.

Zack’s (second) First Day and Addie’s Still Crazy
Z-Man started at his new school this week and of course, did not disappoint with his adaptability and strength. He gets picked up in front of the house in a van with anywhere from four to eight other kids already on board and gets whisked away to his school, only a five-minute drive from our house. His school is a reverse inclusion classroom-type program (half special needs children and half “typical” children) and is the perfect blend of the two programs he was in last year. There are therapists on site, a new sensory program, focus on his IEP and a foundation based off of Montessori teachings.
On his second day, he grabbed his backpack on the front porch and said, “Momma, school bus!” and we marched to the white vehicle. I opened the door and he hugged my legs for just a few seconds, looked up at me with a smile and hopped inside with his friends. When he came home, I asked how school was and he kept saying the words “happy” and “friends.”

His time at school gives me and Addie some “Girl Time” and I am enjoying that, too. She’s talking so much and coming up with the most hysterical comebacks and responses. She just keeps me laughing so much of the time. And shaking my head.

We can’t keep her hair looking good for the life of us. She’s always rolling and running and braids fall out and ponytails sink down and bangs are constantly in her face. She makes a face when I put her in a dress and yet sprints to the nearest person and says, “Look, ___, Addie so pretty!”

She requests “Elmo” (Sesame Street) almost daily now, and happy to relive my childhood, happily DVR episodes for her. Every time, she points at the TV during the credits and yells “Where Elmo go?” even though she knows very well he rides in on his tricycle about ten seconds later.

She has become our pickier eater, or perhaps Zack has just started eating so much more now, but either way, dinner is always an adventure.

Him
I’m more in love with my Scott when he’s in his Daddy Zone than any other time or place or circumstance.
He walks in the door from work and I basically shoo him into the living room to play with the kiddos. They are instantly all over him, giving hugs, offering “teapot” (Addie’s version of a tea party) and requesting books to read and wrestling together.
But it’s his bedtime rituals with the kiddos I adore most.
Last night, I hovered around a corner in the hallway, two sippie cups and two diapers in my hands, frozen. I had been coming out of the laundry room when I heard him in Addie’s room, doing a role call of all of her animals.
“And who’s this?,” he asks her.
With a giggle, she tells him.
They go back and forth like this through all eight or nine creatures.
He does this to make her feel comfortable and to let her know she is surrounded by love as she goes to sleep. But she doesn’t need any of the Guppies or the bear or even the puppy blanket. Her Daddy showers her (and Zack) with love.

Scott and I are better than ever. It’s back to basics.
Hand holding and driving adventures and silly jokes and showing the other person you care.
He’s been patient with my need-this-for-the-house list and has put up shelves, hooked up electronics and nearly singlehandedly moved large furniture.

I’m happy for where we are, literally but also this very figurative place, too.

We are in a happy place that needs no address.