A GREYt friend

I said goodbye today to a sweet, loyal companion.

Amidst the chaos of moving, packing, buying, selling, we have realized that our adopted Greyhound, Fuzz Face “Proud Man”, could not possibly make the move as well. There are many reasons for this — more out of concern for his well-being than anything having to do with us and our new home. He’s 11 years old and starting to become more and more lethargic.

No one else wanted to make the decision. It was up to me.

It was my idea to adopt a greyhound just weeks after we purchased this home. I grew up with a good friend whose family had an adopted Greyhound and I loved him and remembered him for years and years. We added Proud to our little zoo and he fit in right away.

Adopting a greyhound is an intense process. There are pages and pages of paperwork and referrals and pretty much a background check! They asked us questions about our lifestyle, current pets, future plans, house layout and favorite colors (OK, no, not really). They brought out three greyhounds that seemed to match us best on paper for a little in-person meet up. Proud was one of those three and it was immediately clear that he was the one. Even our little Yorkie Izzie liked him — she led him around the yard and showed him her favorite places to piddle. When the agency reps pulled out of our driveway, I cried and told Scott that our dog was in that car.

And soon he was ours.

Proud (Originally Fuzz Face Proud of the Fuzz Face racing family) was unique in how long he raced for — much longer than the average greyhound — and how good he was — finishing almost at the very top level and winning about one-quarter of all races he entered. What we will never know is his how badly he was treated. He likely was kept in a small crate with no food or water while not on the racetrack. And judging from his skittish personality, he was probably either abused or neglected or both.

 

On one of our first nights with him, I watched Scott try to teach Proud to sit on command for nearly an hour while I perused a new Greyhound manual book. Suddenly, Chapter Five told me that the hip structure on greyhounds prevented them from sitting.

“STOP!” I screamed at Scott, who by now was doing funky aerobics with the dog in his attempt to train him. We still laugh about that.

 

If you’ve never seen a greyhound run, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen magic in motion, at least as far as animals are concerned. We found a large old, fenced-in tennis court nearby on a walk one day and brought Izzie and Proud in to run freely. It was the closest to feeling like a proud Momma I ever felt before my kids were born. Proud just ran back and forth for the longest time. All legs up in the air, a graceful posture and quick turnaround, his jowls pushed back into a funny grin. He was joyful.

 

Proud’s previous neglect took years to undo. First there was the need to put on some weight. His ribs were all visible when we first adopted him. That was the easy fix. There’s no such thing as a thin animal in our house.

The emotional scars took much more time. It’s only been in the last year or so that he has spent time with us at the same time downstairs or on the same floor. Previously, he would go upstairs when we came downstairs or vice versa. He would eat his dinner when we went to bed. But recently, he’s been so close. He lays on a blanket on the living room floor at the foot of the couch while we watch TV or read books with the kids. He tolerates their random, sometimes-rough hugs and their running around in circles.

 

He jumps if you drop something on the floor or slam a door. And he’d rather pace for 20 minutes than deal with a cat on his blanket.

 

And he’s a lover. Pet his head and rub his long neck and you are a forever friend.

He greets you at the door and stretches those long legs in front of him, sticking his butt up in the air.

 

He has the worst breath and he’s at the perfect height to steal a good steak off of your plate, but he’s been a really, really good friend.

 

Proud got scared at the door one day while I was taking him out and pulled the leash out of my hand. He ran in all his graceful, majestic glory and in spite of the shock and fright of losing him, I couldn’t help but watch him run. He’s so beautiful when he is in motion. I always feel at peace when I watch him run.

 

So, he’s going back with one of the co-owners of the adoption agency. (Please check them out here). He may be there only temporarily or it may be his forever now home. She has a couple of other greyhounds and a large, fenced-in yard.

He can run. Often and with friends.

In that beautiful form, smiling in the breeze.

 

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Asbury Adventure

Have you noticed a theme these past couple of months?

The Zee Family has been having itself some adventures.

Adventure.

Just saying the word brings me peace and makes me think of ocean waves and warm embraces and laughs over wine and that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart.

Adventure.

 

So all four of us (yay!) snuck away for a few days in the middle of a life upheaval (more on that later) to escape, forget and breathe. We stayed at the home of my mom’s cousin Steve and his beautiful-inside-and-out wife Melaney and another cousin Andy and were joined by my cousin (Steve’s daughter) Rachel and her daughter April, who is just a month older than Addie. We even had a visit from Uncle Bwick one night.

Steve and Melaney are saints. In a matter of minutes, their gorgeous historic home that they have renovated so beautifully was turned upside-down with a loud parade of marching toddlers traipsing around endless bags and toys brought out of the woodwork of two well-traveled SUVs. From that moment and through the temper tantrums and time-outs, the seemingly-endless screams of “Share!” and “No touch!” and the smelly diapers and long nap processes to the line of six adults scampering for showers after beach time, they remained patient and calm and so considerate and generous. We realize everywhere we go that our crazy family, no matter how much we try not to be crazy, can be overwhelming and we are so appreciative of the loved ones who allow a little craziness into their lives for a day or two.

The weather cooperated so nicely. We enjoyed a couple hours at the beach down the street our first day there, along with some great playground time. The kids almost immediately all started playing so well together. It reminded me so much of my childhood and the family gatherings where all of my cousins, all of us about the same age, just instantly bonded and played and later shared secrets and had great sibling-like fights. And it made me wish that our kids can have what our parents’ generation had, where cousins really were like siblings and knew and loved each other so well. It will take work, but I hope that my kids know and love their family so much, too.

There was the Great Raccoon Adventure during our stay, too, but it might still be too early to joke about that one. But really, I hope we can all giggle about this one in the near future. All part of the adventure!

Our second day was a near all-day beach day and the kids surpassed all of my expectations. They listened, they were in great spirits and we made it much longer than I thought.

I have so many Happy Heart moments from our days there.

I sat at the head of a long dinner table at a delicious Italian restaurant, my babies and husband on either side of me, looking down a long line of amazing people. Each with their own story and journey and so many happily-ever-afters taking place. I felt so loved and so lucky.

The same lovely reminiscing took place on that sand, too. Watching Scott and his son splashing in the water as each wave brought beautiful laughter from both of them. I thanked my lucky stars for the wonderful father Scott has become in our journey and hoped both kids realize how lucky they are, too.

We had buckets on heads, and manly men with baby dolls in their arms; we all snapped photos and shared delicious meals.

At night, I was too happy to sleep. I just laid there, after the babies had finally fallen asleep and I could hear Scott’s snoring; after the footsteps above quieted down; and I just smiled. I felt the presence of so many loved ones not with us anymore and figuratively patted us all on the back for forgetting all of the world’s stresses for a few days and making the effort for family.

I believe my family(ies) is/are a huge part of why and who I am today.

It was an adventure. A great, joyful, peaceful

Adventure.

 

 

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Snippets- Vacation Edition

We had ourselves an adventure — just me, Zack and Addie (Da-da had to work).

 

We crossed five states for four different visits in about 10 days and 20-plus hours of driving. There were chickey kisses and ocean waves and everything in between.

Some highlights:

 

The most relaxing, heart-warming time sitting in Chochie’s yard watching kids frolic in dirt, hide treasures in secret corners and splash to their hearts’ content in a bright blue bird bath.

 

Snuggles nightly with two tired ones. Holding them close and re-learning their breathing and sighs. Watching little hands and fingers as we all fell asleep.

 

Addie greeting me every day with, “Good morning, Momma! How did you sleep? Addie wake up!” You can’t help but start your day on a positive note with that.

 

At nighttime, I would remind the kids of what we did that day — who we saw, where we were, etc. One night after a 4th of July picnic at my Dad’s and plenty of big cousins to play with, I asked Zack what was his favorite part. Typically, he just repeats “favorite part” with a smile. That day, he grinned a huge grin and said, “Play with kids!” How sweet.

Another night, Addie interrupted me with, “I so happy, Momma.”

 

I learned all of the words to one of the songs from a DVD we brought with us for the car time.

“I’m not ready to be a princess, I don’t have what it takes…” The kids and I can rock it out. “I look bad in crowns…!”

 

Cousins Ryan and Kevin in Massachusetts always dote on Z&A. It’s so amazing to see their love for their little cousins. They introduced the kids to some of their old toys, and a baby frog and the beloved guinea pigs, which are a HUGE hit. (We actually have to tell Zack the piggies are sleeping quite often or else they get no break from their noisy visitor). Addie snatched snap peas from Becky’s garden and took charge on a walk around the neighborhood. Cousin Mark was welcomed home from work with two squealing “hewwo”s from little people. We all laughed at Addie’s love for pickles and Zack’s sweet tooth, but mostly we just laughed.

 

Seeing my Dad and Uncle “Brick” together was so great. They are two peas in a pod. I love them both so much for their humor and kindness and compassion, wrapped up in tough-guy exteriors. Crazy fun watching them drink beers and blow bubbles with the kids on our last day.

 

My friend Nicole and her man Jeff have created a beautiful life together and just seeing her, with him, in their cozy and cute home was a delight. They’re still collecting the Cheerios we left for them in every crevice imaginable. Truth or Truth with wine until 3am was simultaneously the best and worst idea we had, haha!

 

At the beach, the kiddos surprised me. Zack went straight for the water and couldn’t be removed without major coaxing and Addie was quite content to play in the sand and sprinkle water (fetched by Momma every three minutes) from her watering can onto my toes.

 

 

There were a lot of quiet moments that made every traffic jam and long walk worth it:

The ringing laughter in living rooms and on patios and in the car;

Both kids saying,  I love you, Momma.”

Having a chance to disconnect from the rest of the world and just observe. I learned much about the babies in these 10 days.

The love and hospitality of our many hosts, who dealt with difficult bedtimes and early-mornings and sometimes my need to just stop. I appreciate your open doors and open hearts.

 

 

This was an amazing adventure.

I just love adventures.

 

 

 

 

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D&D

Two of the most entertaining, spontaneous, exciting, kind, beautiful souls I’ve ever known found each other and sealed the deal with a wedding this weekend. My cousin Dan married his lovely bride Dorothy.

 

There were scorpions and Star Wars theme songs and other fun quirky moments that made it all theirs.

 

But there was family. The crazy cousins and newer baby cousins and awesome aunts and uncles and everything in between. People we met on Dan’s earlier adventures and people we hope we see again on future adventures.

 

There was breakdancing (by our son) and shrieks of “NO” when asked if anyone had any reason for them not to marry (by our daughter, who was bribed to sit still with promise of a “princess” — Dorothy did not disappoint).

 

I felt my heart smiling.

Watching big tough guys hold hands with little girls in poofy dresses, sharing laughs and memories with those we don’t see nearly enough, gathering despite extreme exhaustion in the lobby of our hotel just to be with one another a few minutes longer.

 

After all the planning, it was over in a flash and I we found ourselves in the car heading home faster than I would have liked, but we return home with plans for visits in the months to come and promises I intend to keep.

 

There was love, love, beautiful love.

My heart is still smiling.

 

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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.

 

 

Growing

We are all growing here in the Z Family.
As surely as the neglected weeds out back and the set-aside to-do list on the table, we are all growing both inside and out, every one of us.

There is a little boy who is most assuredly not a baby anymore, growing steadier feet below him with every cautious step behind him. A boy who is still quiet and calm, chill and loving; whose love for his little sister has grown as well, into a most beautiful series of kisses on foreheads and chubby hands holding petite long fingers.

There is a baby who recently decided that she shall grow up perhaps too quickly, that she will stand up tall and take more and more steps each day; whose blue eyes, just a shade or two lighter and brighter than her big brother’s gray-blue eyes, see everything, take in everything. She absorbs and repeats one-syllable sounds (“Ack” she calls to her Big Brother each morning!) and is as equally fiercely independent as she is needing to be reassured comfort with squeezes and hand-holding. One minute she looks up at you, tears streaming from her eyes, and the next, she takes off, you already a distant memory for that blue-eyed babe on to her next climb or daredevilish move.

Their Daddy has grown, too. He has realized that it’s never too late for change and, on Monday, will be embarking down a new career path, which will bring few short-term rewards but hopefully many for him and his selfless ways in the future. You should see the way he watches his kids now, the way he remembers to thank his wife for the littlest thing, the way he makes great effort for a simple gesture.

And the Momma. She has had a very busy few months of growth. She has had to step away from some things in both a figurative and a literal sense. She has had to de-plus one love temporarily (that’s you, my lil bloggity-blog) in order to build and grow a new one. She took a chance and hopped on a plane and spent 24 long days away from her family, home and passions in order to walk independently in a strange city and yes, in order to do that growing thing.

And now we are here.
Scott and I are ready to watch our little ones do all the growing for us for a while now and are making the most of every day.

It all came together for me this week.

I was sitting in our yard on the warmest, sunniest day so far this year (Thanks for joining us, Spring!), my eldest pouring dirt in his lap with childish squeals while my littlest ripped leaves up into a box in a corner of the yard. I had been researching one thing or another for my photography business when the sun warmed my hair just right that it stopped me, right then, right there, and poured such emotion over my heart, I wasn’t sure if I should do a Crazy Woman Dance right then and there for the elderly neighbors to enjoy (and to cause them to call the cops on behalf of my poor children) or simply burst into tears and cuddle my babies close. I did neither.

I just took it in, promised myself I would continue to build these moments, to take time out for myself now and then, to feel the warmth of the sun on my head. Oh, and to wear sunscreen. A sunburn would really kill the moment.

So we have been growing here.

Addie is 21 or so pounds and just a few weeks away from her first birthday. (HOW can that be???) Her hair is look in front and short in the back and turning lighter as it comes in (perhaps another blondie?). We get asked all the time if we cut or style her hair. She took her first steps last week — the record is seven at a time, but she’s doing those bits of walkin’ more often throughout the day. She has a long torso and short legs just like her Daddy and her brother. Although we still her that she looks like mini-Momma, more and more I see her brother’s face, especially when the two of them are laughing. They sound the same when they cry and they definitely are impossible to tell apart during giggles. She is stubborn and hard-headed and loves to test the limits already — currently with eating dog food and pulling down the toilet paper, but soon I’m sure it will be with curfew and clothes and boys. Groooooooan. She has her first two teeth coming in on the bottom and will go to anyone, no matter how old or how strange they are to her.

And the Z-Man. Man, this boy just blows me away. He will be three in early August and I can’t understand when he went from a baby with DS and we went from scared parents to this moment we’re in where we have truly come to terms with his life and ours and we embrace every opportunity and relish every accomplishment. We have only three months left with his therapists and my eyes well up with tears every time I even think about these pseudo family members leaving our lives. They have been in our house every week since Zack was three months old. They watched his highs and lows, admonished us when we needed it and celebrated us when we deserved it. They’ve seen us change jobs and gain a baby and they have seen it all — our best and our worst. Zack is doing very, very well. He “gets” it, if you know what I mean. He understands when you tell him something, he understands when you ask him something. His gross motor skills are something we are all shocked by and proud of, they’re so fabulous. His communication is still severely delayed. He has all but ignored our attempts at signing lately and while he can make the best animal noises and every now and then repeats a word (this week it’s been “Come!” and “Go!”) we still have a long way to “GO!”. He still absolutely loves his books, anything to do with animals and is enjoying the open-door opportunities to should “Car!” when something drives past our house.

But those moments when it’s the two of them together, that’s when my heart is stretching out past it’s boundaries. Every bath time with splashing and sharing toys and giggles and every playground trip with dirty shoes and dirty hands and exploring tiny tunnels, my heart strings soar.

We talk often about whether or not we’ll have another baby, and at this point, we simply just can’t decide. So for now, we are enjoying our two babies. Pretty soon, I know I’ll have to stop calling them “the babies”, but seriously, let’s all just acknowledge that they may very well be “the babies” in 30 years. (If that’s the only way I embarrass them, I think we’ve done pretty well).

It’s not always easy. And it’s certainly not always perfect. Heck, I used Addie’s body to hold a restaurant door open this morning while carrying her, her brother and a diaper bag by myself. And then there was the time I sacrificed a yard stick, cell phone and broom all for the sake of editing just one more photograph.

But we have grown into this beautiful, connected, cohesive, solid little unit of four. We have grown into the Z Family I knew we could be, the family I always wanted for myself and dreamed of for my future. And now that future is here. I’m loving every minute and running outside into the sun every chance I get — even if there are chores to do, photos to edit and OverTime to earn.

Life is short, way too short.
And I’m not done growing.

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A new adventure – Spread the word!

This might surprise you, but I’m actually quite an adrenaline junkie. No skydiving or speed racing, thank you very much; I get quite a high in a much simpler way.

The way that the light from a nearby streetlamp bounces off of a white wedding dress.

A little pink tutu contrasting with green and white polkadots.

A candid smile, a favorite hobby. Those agonizing three seconds before an image appears.

The way that black-and-white changes everything.

I don’t hide my love for photography very well-just ask anyone who’s been to my house. My favorite memories are captured in eclectic frames in every room. My second date with Scott, the day we brought Baby Girl home from the hospital, the day we found out Zack had Down Syndrome. Large round bellies and Autumn leaves. It’s all here, just a few footsteps away…the good, the funny, the precious.

I don’t have to go far to remember the rain on my wedding day that mingled with the bubbles, the way Zack looked when he was more baby and less Big Boy, taking photos in a thunderstorm with my uncle, the simplest and best memories I’ve had with my family and friends. My camera has made all of those memories tangible and unforgettable.

Effective immediately, I’m now offering you and your loved ones a way to have all of that at your fingertips, too.

Visit the Photography page on the blog website for more information and to view some great specials for November and December.

Engagements, anniversaries, reunions, babies, maternity… It can all be captured. And treasured forever. Holiday cards, photo albums, an 8×10 above your mantel… What would make your house a home? What one moment will you show to grandparents and friends in five months or five years?

Give it a thought, send me an e-mail…

And please, pretty please, spread the word.

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Cousins visit!

This post could also be known as Better Late Than Never, being as it’s been almost three weeks since said visit, but between 12-14-hour days at work over a busy holiday week and continuing to transition to being a working Momma again, I’ve been pushing aside several posts that I’ve started but just haven’t taken the time to finish. But I’m back!

Anyway, my cousin Becky, her husband Mark and their boys Kevin and Ryan came for a visit from Massachusetts by way of Chicago. (They were in Chicago, their old home, for a visit and stopped by on their way home to New England).

I’ve said it before, but it rings true again — it is so unbelievably special to have more and more of our loved ones spend time with us in our home, see what our daily lives are like and to really understand our little world.

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Becky and Mark are fantastic parents and their boys are so intelligent, so outdoorsy and so good with our babies. So much fun was had in just the simplest of activities. (I almost choked on my gum when one of the boys picked up a weed-looking plant at the park and said, “Look at this succulent!”)

There were lots of hugs and catching up, of course, but it was some of the other moments I cherished most — watching my little cousins hunt for — and find! — crayfish at a park, showing off my hotel, playing in the backyard and of course watching Zack fall totally in love with his older cousins and the attention he got from all of them. (And don’t think for a minute that Addie didn’t receive her fair share of lovin’.

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And I have to share my favorite instance of photo-bombing so far. You can just make out a little brown tuft of Addie’s afro in the background…

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I love this getting-older-and-finding-your-place-in-the-world stuff. It’s pretty spectacular to have a family to show off, a home to host in, a long list of things that make you realize just how very special your life really is and how lucky you really, really are.

Goodbyes were tough, really tough, but I’m so looking forward to our foursome visiting their foursome and them coming back in the future.

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And I can’t wait for Zack to hunt for crayfish.

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