Parents-only Weekend

I don’t brag enough about my in-laws, but really, it goes without saying how supportive, encouraging and helpful they have been in the almost decade that I have known their son. From giving me shelter when I couldn’t afford my first apartment to acting as primary childcare when I worked fulltime. Even now, three hours away, they manage to lend a hand much more than I could have imagined.

So, this weekend, they offered  (and we accepted!) to take the kids to their house for the weekend.

It has been SO long since Scott and I have had a weekend to ourselves, only ourselves — or even one night when one of us wasn’t in a wedding party or involved in some other obligation.

So at 3:45 p.m., a little Toyota Prius pulled away from our street with two giddy toddlers and their multiple bags and changes of clothes riding in the backseat.

And from 3:46 until 3:49, I stood at the kitchen window. From 3:50 to 3:52, I brewed a cup of tea and grabbed my long-neglected magazine pile. From 3:53 until 4:04, I looked out the living room window in a daze. At 4:05, I texted Scott.

“This is weird. I don’t know what to do.”

I am completely guilty of finishing some laundry and organizing some toys, but then, I promise, I focused on Scott and me and just relaxing. I mean, we enjoyed a lovely dinner that night; we hung out with new friends the next night and played games until way past our bedtime.

And of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure with Scott without all plans flying out the window. Like when a one-hour, $60 inspection on your car turns into a $500 problem and three days without a vehicle. Or a snowstorm that the in-laws then had to drive through on Sunday.

We really tried to sleep in, too, but couldn’t make it past 7 a.m.

I loved the opportunity to sit and sip coffee without having to reheat it five times. And it certainly was lovely to have one-on-one time with Scott.

But boy, when those babies pulled back up to the house, my heart was full again. They drive me crazy sometimes and they for sure are a lot of work, but it’s the best job I could ever have.

And now, we soothe some nasty colds with hugs, snuggles, songs and giggles. And we reheat that coffee cup (for the third time so far) and excel at multi-tasking and try to figure out where she pulled out the imaginary mud story and why her saying the word “tiara” is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. And I accept his “wuv you, Momma” and his sloppy kisses and maybe, just maybe, will indulge his request for the elephant movie. Twice.

So, basically, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s incredibly difficult to step away from them. It’s odd to not plan my day around princesses and backpacks and dance parties. I spent so much time missing them, thinking about them and talking about them that I wonder if I’ll ever successfully get a break. (And a relaxing one without doomed car inspections).

The warm coffee and adult conversation was quite lovely, though! Hooray!

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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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Rekindling in Richmond

We had ourselves a long overdue getaway — just Zee Momma and Zee Daddy for two days with nothing to worry about other than not getting lost and not getting mugged.

It’s easy to get caught up in everything — therapy sessions, work schedules, feedings and household chores. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the million little things taking up every second of your marriage before you realize you have forgotten about your foundation — about the love you have for one another and the thousands and millions of little things you love about that person.

We hit that point. Where we took each other for granted and we didn’t appreciate those little things anymore.

So in honor of our third wedding anniversary, we decided to find a hotel in my resort’s company in a city neither of us have spent time in within driving distance for a mini-vacation. We were set up with a room in Richmond, complete with champagne and strawberries upon arrival and set out for 38 hours of things we never get to do — sleeping in, eating out alone, dressing up for dinner and going places you can’t typically bring two babies to, at least not if you’re even partially sane.

So we took turns choosing activities (you should have heard Scott’s groan when I chose botanical gardens!) and we didn’t plan too far ahead. And we had to follow certain rules — like holding the other person’s hand really firmly every chance we had.

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Somewhere between singing twangy country duets in the car, getting stuck in traffic halfway up the entryway to I-95 and crashing onto a king-sized bed with a huge sigh, it started to show up — that love we used to wrap around ourselves like a blanket. Then somewhere between the botanical gardens sigh and the admission under a rose-covered gazebo that maybe this wasn’t so bad, it really began to come out in full force. In that gazebo in front of a Victorian house, we had one of the best conversations we’ve had in months.

And from Scott’s choice of mini-golf (“C’mon, we can never do this!”) and my giving in with a shake of my head because only my husband would choose mini-golf for his wishlist; somewhere between there and a huge, delicious meal in a dimly-lit private room, there I found my laughter. The insane belly laughs Scott could bring out in me a thousand times a day that recently had been stifled by frustration and annoyance.

I laughed so much those two days and neither one of us have stopped laughing since we returned. The old spark, the old flame even, well you better believe it’s back.

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Scott and I have been through so much in just a handful of years — we’ve relocated, we’ve each switched jobs, we’ve had two babies, learned about special needs and found many more gray hairs.

It’s not to say that we resent our kiddos or the time it takes to raise them just the way it takes to become successful, responsible adults. We talked about them a lot over our vacation — imagining Zack running around a pond and spotting a turtle we were feeding; Addie’s blue eyes widening in the hustle and bustle of the downtown noise.

The kids were never far from our minds.
In fact, one of the most amazing moments of our trip came when we were exploring the lobby of our hotel while waiting for our car to be retrieved. We walked by this display of children’s faces at least three times before we were both caught off guard by a handsome little toddler with big eyes and big cheeks like Zack’s — eyes that were clearly kissed by Down Syndrome. There was a quote about the boy being called a flirt by his parents and we both laughed about our own little two-year-old flirt at home.

And then we realize that it was an entire series of photos of children who each had Down Syndrome, put up just that week by the local DS Chapter. Each child had quotes talking about what they loved to do, what their parents thought they were capable of, what their future held in store for them.

I didn’t think Scott could peel himself away from those photos. And for perhaps the first time in our relationship, he asked me to take a picture with my camera. It was beautiful.

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We used to take weekend drives or day trips all the time; it was where I really fell in love with photography and my husband’s Human Atlas-like skills. It was nice to get back to that feeling of a great adventure, an adventure whose ending you don’t quite know at the start of the trip, the left turn out of the end of the driveway.

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Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders, pack your bags, tell your wife they can’t bring the babies, not even just one baby, and have faith in the tank of gas, the GPS and the hotel reservation and leave the rest up to fate. Sometimes you have to just start out on an adventure to remind you of all of the adventures, good and bad, you’ve had in your journey so far. Sometimes you just have to do it. As long as you hold the other person’s hand.

Don’t let go.

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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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