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.

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!

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.

Smells like apples in here…

… so I’ll be brief.

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

untitled shoot-027-3

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

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

untitled shoot-008-3 untitled shoot-009-3 untitled shoot-018-3

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

untitled shoot-001-4 untitled shoot-002-4 untitled shoot-021-3 untitled shoot-023-3

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

untitled shoot-010-3 untitled shoot-015-3

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

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

untitled shoot-011-3 untitled shoot-013-3

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

StapleHead and some snippets

We’ve had a lot of sweet nicknames for our daughter throughout the past two-and-a-half years: Girly Girlz… Raddison/Baddison/Maddison/Saddison… AddieBugs… and now, StapleHead.

StapleHead is a recent addition to our quirky Addie nicknames. It all began Friday morning when Addie’s head may or may not have had an unfortunate run-in with the corner of trim in our living room doorway. A mother’s worst nightmare — you pick up your screaming daughter to console her and see the blood drops on the floor and feel your hand is wet from where you were petting your daughter’s hair.

Fast forward to Scott making it home in a record eight minutes and getting ourselves acquainted with the nearest Urgent Care and voila! — three staples and a little girl running around saying, “Doctor fix my hair” and “I had fun on my adventure!” and “Zack broke my head.”

She’s totally fine and I’m grateful Scott takes her for staple removal on Friday and not me.

I knew she’d be the one to give us an emergency room visit that involved blood first, but I was at least hoping she’d wait another few years. (Or that Scott would be with the kids and not me, haha!)

*Zack has learned how to open his bedroom door!
Hooray!
And end hooray! It’s getting really old already!

He opens it all the time. During nap time… Creeeaaaak! Middle of the night… Oh, just sneaking downstairs and eating some Cheez-Its on the couch in the dark. Early morning visits to Momma’s bed with shrieks of “schnack!”

* We have turned into Skype-aholics! Scott kicked it up a notch by somehow connecting our video streams to our 42-inch flat-screen TV. We tested it out with cousin Becky and her family and the kids got a kick out of seeing their cousins’ guinea pic on the wall! We’ve also recently Skype’d Gammaw and Pappy. Send us a Skype invite and I can promise you dancing stuffed animals and Addie asking you to come see her new room. Zack will most definitely dance, too!

* It’s the month of being thankful — and giving back, too!
We’ve donated some toys to local charities and just gave two boxes filled with non-perishable food items for a Thanksgiving food drive. There’s a thousand people in your community who probably don’t have loved ones to visit or a turkey to cook next week. Let’s help them out, right? And if you’re doing online shopping, see if you can help a charity while you shop, like Amazon’s Smile. (We support National Down Syndrome Society through them!)

I’m also focusing on starting traditions this year with the kids. Things that will become more important than any gift you can unwrap on Christmas morning. Making snowmen and tasting hot cocoa and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and making handmade treasures for those that love us.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving again this year and we are most looking forward to a large enough kitchen for cooking a large enough meal. No more cramped counter problems!

And in even snippier snippets:
– Addie’s record counting is 1 through 14. Her favorite color seems to have moved away from purple — perhaps green or yellow? (“Geen” and “Yeh-no”)
– Zack has started saying unsolicited “I love you”s to me. Happy = understatement. He also is starting to tell me a little bit about school after bus drop-off each day. Today, I caught “Joanie” (his teacher) and “play friends” and that works for me!
– Scott finally has more help at his store! Fingers crossed this means a near-future end to six-day work weeks and a good bulk of his stress!
– My photography biz is kicking butt! I have a mentoring session at the end of this month, have had some very successful recent sessions AND am getting a new camera and lens any day now!

Alright, duty calls! There is PB&J to be made and snuggles to give and laundry to fold and put away and crocheting to complete!

Have a great week!!!

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.

20121003-134555.jpg

20121003-134626.jpg

20121003-134641.jpg

20121003-134656.jpg

20121003-134710.jpg

20121003-134724.jpg

20121003-134744.jpg

20121003-134757.jpg

20121003-134819.jpg

20121003-134837.jpg

20121003-134855.jpg

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.

20121003-135059.jpg

20121003-135157.jpg

20121003-135224.jpg

20121003-135250.jpg

20121003-135301.jpg

20121003-135322.jpg

20121003-135340.jpg

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.

20121003-134411.jpg

20121003-134435.jpg

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.

20121003-135015.jpg

20121003-135032.jpg

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.

20121003-134014.jpg

“God gave me you…”

‘Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs

God gave me you for the days of doubt.

 

Yup.

 

I’ve known Scott for more than five years and we fell in love immediately. A blind date, a semi-long distance relationship, contradicting work hours and different lifestyles and backgrounds, but we worked hard, we fell hard. Moving in together and road trips and day trips and photos and games. Cats and dogs and a baby, too.

All the while, we laughed. A lot. I’m always laughing with Scott. For our anniversary, we had two days, just us (OK, and a cute baby) and all I freakin’ did was laugh. Over and over. Belly laughs and giggly giggles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two years ago, I promised Scott and he promised me to love no matter what — through ups and downs, through trials, through happy times, in sickness and in health. Our vows didn’t mention all the hardships we’ve faced as a team in great detail, but I’m still not surprised at the strength of our partnership.

My wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life, and one of the most special. I had so much fun, I felt so loved, and of course there was laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wedding day was indeed a beautiful day, despite a torrential downpour, a unity candle that wouldn’t light and forgetting our marriage license. Ooooh, and did I mention our AMAZING honeymoon? Le sigh.

But some of my favorite moments in my life come from early-morning kisses, watching Scott as a father, being silly and staying up late, and sharing tears and worries and fears and doubts.

I have fallen more in love with Scott in the past two years, in the past 13 months, in the past six weeks than I ever thought possible.

You want cheesy lines? I got ’em.

 

He completes me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is my everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is my best friend.

I love him, I love him, I love him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite Scott-as-Dad moments

In no particular order:

 

 

— Scott’s absolute calmness when our three days of contractions turned into an emergency unplanned C-section at 8cm dialated. He was soothing, patient and brought an absolute sense of peace to me in an otherwise anxious time. That calmness turned to pure excitement soon after, and at just the right moment. I caught the first glimpse of that excitement when he let go of my hand, stood up from his chair in the operating room and leaned over the curtain to steal that long-awaited first glimpse of his son.

 

I’ll never forget the smile on his face in that moment.

 

— It’s a tough one, but I have to include this. There is this image I just can’t forget — as the hospital pediatrician finally sits us down to tell us he suspects Zack might have Down Syndrome, I look over at my husband, at Zack’s father, and see in those brown-green eyes the same thoughts I’m thinking, the same worries I’m worrying. Later that night, after faking our way through visitors, we finally whisper in the darkness, listening to our new baby’s sleeping breaths.

“I hurt for you,” Scott told me. “And I hurt for Zack.”

 

— Baby monitor eavesdropping. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but there are few sounds as beautiful as listening to my dear, dear Scott telling Zack good night.

“Alright, big guy. You get some sleep now…” It just makes my heart jump out of my chest with happiness.

 

— Since I started the new job, on weekends when I go in on a later shift, Scott jumps out of bed at the first baby sound and lets me steal another hour or so of sleep while he takes the baby downstairs. It’s a special treat and one of the many, many sacrifices Scott makes for my happiness and wellbeing. (And there might be more eavesdropping…)

 

 

 

— One of the things I was most worried about with Zack’s diagnosis was Scott feeling as though he lost his “dreams” — the all-star-baseball-pitcher-plans we made while Z-man was the size of a poppy seed.

And then when Zack was maybe a week old, Scott had him practicing his throwing arm with a cat toy on the living room couch.

And just a couple of weeks ago, Scott had to take photographic evidence of the distance Zack threw one of his toys. He was so proud.

 

 

— I’m looking at a Post-It note I kept from Scott from the day we got our positive pregnancy test.

Originally with a bouquet of flowers, it reads, “These are for you, Mommy.” Best.Surprise.Ever.

 

There are a million more reasons why Scott is an amazing father. He’s oh-so-patient, he’s fun, he has a perfect sense of humor. But he’s also thought-provoking, practical and stern, in all the right increments. He has handled this fatherhood that’s slightly out-of-the-norm in a way that’s only made me want to be a better mother.

 

 

 

Best of all, we have each other’s backs and we’re on the same team.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m happy there’s an entire day to celebrate the great dads like Scott — dads like my Dad, who is my ultimate hero, and who sacrificed so much without ever hesitating to bring me the opportunities I have had up until now and making me the person I am today. I’m happy there’s a day, but I hope I can make more of an effort to make EVERY day special.

 

So a big shout-out to all of the dads out there — our new dad friends like Scott K., Bret, Mark, Keith and Jared; our “old” new-dad friends like Bill, Brad and Mike; and an “I love you” to all of the dad-like figures out there for me — my father-in-law Calvin, my uncles Joe and Paul, my grandpa here and my PopPop in Heaven and all of the other fathers, pops, papas, dads and pas out there.

 

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

 

Love notes and state lines

Friday Night was Date Night — our first one in four months, actually. Worse yet, it was our second one since The Dude was born. I take full responsibility for that.

I still get nervous and excited for our dates, which I think is a good thing, considering Scott and I have been together for almost five years now.

 

 

 

I couldn’t help but notice the love in our house — visible in obvious and non-obvious ways… the love notes I keep, little chores done, Mommy Time given and many more actions from my best friend.

 

 

 

 

I spend days thinking about everything from how lovely the glass of wine with dinner will taste to whether I should go for the new pink shoes or the white Audrey Hepburn-esque ballet flats (I went Audrey).

 

I painted my toenails and spent more than five minutes on my hair, all with the help of some very helpful assistants, including Senor Cutey Pants with his big blue-eyed “Momma-you-look-great” gaze.

 

(Or was it “Enough, already!”???)

 

 

 

Weeks to prepare and I still had to run back inside for things twice because I forgot my cell phone and camera.

 

But away we went, earlier than expected because it was a short day of work for Scott and a day off for me, waving a quiet goodbye to the still-napping Z-Man and thanking Scott’s mom 10 times on our way out the door for watching the little guy.

 

 

 

 

Our original plan was to go to a highly-recommended Italian restaurant about 30 minutes away in Cumberland, Md. One of the great things about where we live is that in two hours or less we can pretty much make it close to the Ohio border and into Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. In four hours we can hit my home area of the Garden State as well as New York state. I think there’s something so freeing about crossing a state line to go to dinner or along your Sunday drive. Anyway.

We passed our Welcome to Maryland sign and were just a mile or so away from the Cumberland exit we normally take when Scott said he had an idea. This sort of statement usually makes me chuckle, because at this point in our relationship, it’s meant everything from a last-minute weekend getaway to a home improvement project to a new videogame. Safer and less expensive than a new guest room, Scott suggested that we keep heading south for a bit into Morgantown, WVa., the home of Scott’s favorite college team, WVU. Within 30 seconds, I could tell that Scott had this in his mind for at least the duration of our trip so far and so I left the decision up to him, smiling as the wind from the window whipped my hair, waiting to see if the blinker would turn on or if we would continue.

And continue we did.

 

 

I think if Scott could live anywhere else, it might be West Virginia. I’ve exhausted all of the cousins-sisters-wives jokes on him already, and he’s still a major supporter of the state and possibly works for their tourism bureau on nights he says he’s out bowling. I think it’s simply the lush, dense forests and the similarities between the area he grew up in, minus some farms and homes and adding some larger rivers and winding ridges. And pick-ups. Adding a lot of pick-up trucks.

 

 

Not long after our spontaneous turn-off southward, it became quiet — the good quiet. We were playing the Alphabet Game (no, seriously, we are fiercely competitive with this and play every time we drive further than to the grocery store!) when suddenly I realized Scott was not just simply sucking at the game, he was just not playing anymore. He was taking in the scenery, holding tightly to myhand near the center of our two seats and smiling to himself. It was perfect. And so I gave him the peaceful time — and the loss.

 

 

We pulled into Morgantown, and well, no offense to its citizens, but it didn’t really do it for me. It needs a lot of love, and even Scott agreed that it wasn’t all that he remembered it being from trips there for baseball camp in high school. I think it was something about rose-colored glasses and the beloved football and basketball teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still had a delicious dinner at a very cute Italian restaurant, filled with the only bit of serious talk we needed to get out of the way, before taking a little walk along the Monongahela River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we decided to head up to Cumberland, a familiar and beloved spot on the way home. We took in the historic downtown area, walking the cobblestone streets and tapping intertwined hands to the beat of two different bands playing live in different corners of the canal area. We sat on a bench enjoying some ice cream, people-watched and walked along some nearby railroad tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A perfect summertime evening.

I am so loved, I love so much.

 

 

 

As nice as it was to have some “just us” time, seeing our smiling little guy the next day was just as wonderful. Duders, your Momma and Daddy are refreshed and in love, and everybody wins in that equation.

You are so loved, my two guys, so loved.

Love, love, love.

Date Night and healing

It’s been at least six months since the last one. And my belly was so large we could barely fit in a booth.

I’m talking about our last Date Night.

We got relatively dolled up after work yesterday, bid adieu to our son and his grandma and hopped in the car for our first adults-only evening away in more than half a year. I have to be honest, the nerves were high. I can’t remember having such a hard time getting dressed or having such a feeling of butterflies since our first dates together four and a half years ago.

(these two photos courtesy of Grandma Zook)

I love  how Zack is looking at us in this photo. 🙂

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot of reasons why we waited so long to have our first excursion by ourselves, and most of them are my fault. I wouldn’t recommend waiting that long to any of my new parent friends.

Our romantic (cough, cough) evening began by looking at possible new trucks for Scott. For nearly TWO HOURS.

But it made my handsome hubby happy, so we just went with it, although I eventually started answering his questions about how this vehicle felt or what I thought of this spacious back seat with “I’m really hungry.”

Does this truck smell funny to you? “I don’t know, but I’m really excited for the breadsticks.”

I’m not sure I like the tint on these windows. “I’m not sure if I’m in the mood for soup or salad.”

Finally, we moved on from that oh-so-exciting (and did I mention romantic?) adventure and found our way into a booth at the local Olive Garden, perhaps my favorite restaurant of all time.

The wine was poured, the appetizer and meals ordered, and the conversation began. Innocently enough and about some pretty mundane items. And then it progressed, as I realized the serious items we just never really talked about these past few months. Not for an extended period of time at least. Like, oh, what an abslute hellish few months it was as we came to terms with Zack’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome. And how our first few weeks with our son was not at all like we had planned and prepared for over our pregnancy. And how absolute rock bottom we both hit, all the while trying to be strong for the other person and completely aware and unaware all at once of how they were handling our lucky Life Lottery.

The conversation continued in the parking lot while holding hands. And all through our 40-minute drive home, my head on his shoulder as he drove us back to reality.

I have several people who tell me constantly how amazed they are at how well we handled our unexpected surprise last August. I think their comments are simply a testament as to how well we faked it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still amazed myself sometimes at how we made it through to this healthy mindset we’re in now. But it was a long, scary road behind the scenes.

Scott and I agreed last night that unless you live it, you just don’t understand. The grief. The shock. The numbness. The ridiculous thoughts, the hopeless feeling, the wondering and the “what if” moments. And then that slow, back-burner healing that follows.

It was five months before my husband and I realized we were healing. And six months before we could really talk about it.

We’ve shared everything together and we’ve been through some tough times in our relationship, but for some reason, we had to go this alone. We had to fake it and make it, we had to almost break it. (Rhyming is funny, but in this case also true). We had to take it.

It was two days after my son’s birth that we were told he might have Down Syndrome. And it was one week after that we got the results of a test we wish we didn’t have to take.

And it was months before I realized I would never get the manual on How to Live the Life You Never Dreamed You’d Live. I searched with all of my might for the instruction booklet that tells you how to live your life when you can’t believe it’s turned out the way it has. I imagine it’s the same for people with a cancer diagnosis. Or who  lose a loved one.

But, Scott and I said last night, ours was a Question-Mark Diagnosis.

We just don’t know so much.

Will Zack be able to walk? Will he say “I love you” to his parents? Will he be the all-star left-handed pitcher we imagined for nine months? Will he prove the doctors wrong? Will he prove his parents’ hard work is worth it?

We just don’t know.

We had a huge support group. People who did everything they could; people who did everything right. People who said “Hey, bud, we’re here for you guys.”

But they couldn’t step into our shoes. They couldn’t take us out of that deep, dark, ugly place and make it all go away. And so we ran away from some of them. We hid out in our grief and immersed ourselves in the beautiful blue eyes that stared up at us each day with love and innocence. Such love and innocence that made me feel such guilt for those ugly thoughts and feelings in my Mad Momma Mind.

But here we are. We made it, friends. We are on the OTHER SIDE. It’s a beautiful place. I’m glad we’re here.

Scott always has a sports analogy for whatever situation we’re in. Last night, he told me this story about some coach (clearly I pay attention to the details… maybe West Virginia baseball?) who would yell at his players that if two guys were trying to catch the same ball, one should yell “Same team!” and one of them should step away. They’re going after the same objective, Scott tells me, and you need to work together by sometimes letting one person handle it and be there for back-up.

There’s a lot of situations lately where I’ve been fighting for the same ball with someone on my team.

And so my new mantra is Same Team. Same team. Same team.

I bet you weren’t expecting all of this from a tale of our first Date Night post-baby, huh? Please don’t feel sad or troubled by how it turned out. Scott and I are in a fantastic place now. I loved snuggling up close to him last night and felt like a million bucks this morning when he wished me a great day.

Same team, love, same team.

And now, I leave you with some photos of a great week with our beautiful son. The boy who has made us better people. The boy who will change the lives of so many in ways we don’t know yet.

Our son is our blessing. He is our life. He is the most beautiful thing to come into our world.

And I can honestly say we wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

May you have a great weekend!

Same team.