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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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“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.