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.

Thankful thoughts

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

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

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

“I eat you up, you love me so.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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!!!

Reconnecting

It’s a cyclical thing, me and reconnecting. Every three months or so, I find myself in what should be a very happy moment just paralyzed and overwhelmed with stress or worry or the Grumpy Gloomies. And it’s almost always because I’ve become disconnected. From the things I love or from seeing what’s right in front of me.

So I’m reconnecting. Slowly but surely. I need to find a way to make sure I stay connected — that’s the tricky part.

Despite being a stay-at-home-mom for the better part of nine-and-half months already, it’s still a title I wear with difficulty some days. I find it hard to believe that one year ago, I was juggling a 70-hour work week with wife and mom and house duties, all the while attempting my photography business on the side. Something always suffered.

Now, I can say that most days, I’m rocking it all.
I’m putting down the phone and picking up the blocks or cars. I’m learning to tolerate Elmo’s World and a side of two-year-old temper tantrums when I decide Elmo is a once-a-day activity. (Not five or nine). I make the most of nap times. The phone comes out, the computer cranks on and I amaze myself with how productive I can be in 2.5 hours.

I feel like I know my kids better and better. I feel like they know me, and you know, maybe even appreciate me. I hope that they know that becoming a SAHM was the best job title I ever gained and that I am forever grateful I can reinforce Zack’s school lessons each week and pick out clever items for Show-and-Tell. I’m happy that I am there when Addie wakes up crying or tells me she has a boo-boo on her teeth (She’s teething some God-awful molar, we think). I’m there. I’m grateful I’m there.

It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month (Please learn more about DS here!) and I am amazed at what DS means to us nowadays. It means an incredible school and some free diapers, but really, it means so little. Because Zack is our son. He is the smile and reaching hand under his door after nap time as I creep up the stairs for giggles. He is the unsolicited slobbery kiss when you least expect it. He is sometimes a troublemaker and sometimes, he pushes his sister. (She usually deserves it) He is a flirt with the girl that sits next to him on the bus. He screeches “SCHNACK!” as soon as he wakes up and then proceeds to eat out of his sister’s bowl when she’s not looking. He is not DS.

I’m reconnecting with Scott, and him with me. He comes home to a dinner that at least smells good from the kitchen door (I promise nothing comparable in taste). I take care of the dishes so that he can enjoy the only hour or so he gets with the kids some days.

We have a happy little routine and I’m even building up both of my businesses (shameless plug for Wendy Zook Photography and my Mary Kay business). I’m working on an advancement training program with MK once a week and I’ve booked several photo sessions for 2015 already.

I’m crocheting up a storm, which is always a relaxing go-to for my hands and mind. And this week alone, I’ve gotten through six(!) magazines from my Leaning Tower of Haven’t Read These Yet.

Yet — perhaps it’s the selfish part of me — I still want more. Is it just a Me thing? Or a Woman thing? I always feel like if I stray the least bit from what I “should” be doing, I’m a huge letdown. If I decide ordering a pizza is worth sneaking in a DVR’d Dancing With the Stars some Tuesday afternoon, am I lazy or smart? I need my sanity, right? But then Scott’s taking a detour on his way home and there’s certainly no heavenly meaty scent wafting through the kitchen when he enters.

I’ve yet to make any friends in the area, and I know that will come in time (Working on it, I promise!), but meanwhile, it can make for an isolating experience some days. But I’m finding myself and reconnecting to myself. That’s a worthwhile experience.

Before my ‘gemela’ and I became nearly inseparable in our Argentina adventures (some cough, NINE, cough years ago), I remember spending my first couple of weeks learning not only a dialect and a land, but learning of a young woman who I’d never taken the time to know. I stared longer at laugh lines and grey flecks in eyes. I roamed cobblestone streets alone and loved every second of it — the people watching and the thoughts in my mind that made me smile. I stared out at a harbor for the better part of an hour, thinking and not thinking all at the same time.

I’ve spent this past year watching my dear friend Kacey, the true-friend-true-person kind of lady, plan her wedding. I’ve loved being on this journey with her. We have, without a doubt, become closer, and I know that won’t change after this weekend. I love that her engagement chapter has reminded me not to pause when I want to share a picture or send a just-because Hello. That a stamp is well worth the pay-out of a smile 300 miles away.

I’ve reconnected with old friends and acquaintances, too, and playdates are planned and mini-reunions on the books! It’s funny how time and life change who you need to be around and who makes you happy. The people who let you know, sometimes indirectly, that you’re doing a mighty fine job. At all of it.

I feel as though I’m returning to that mindset by the South American harbor and to that way of living every moment; feeling every moment. Not staring at water for an hour uninterrupted, of course. But learning what makes me tick and what makes me better. And sometimes that’s sacrificing.
And sometimes it’s just reconnecting.

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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Love letter to 296

Dear 296 Chestnut,

I’ve written a lot of love letters in my life. I’m a sentimental, romantic fool.

But this one is as much a love letter as a break-up story.

Life has happened yet again and I must leave you behind.

But I will truly hold a special place in my heart. We are leaving each other too soon.

 

There isn’t an inch of you that doesn’t hold a special moment or memory.

 

We found you as a half-joke, on a whim. While looking for our first home, we passed you and simply said “…and for the same price we could have had something like this awesome house…” and before we knew it, there was a showing, a lovely lady who wanted a nice family to take her beloved home of 20 years, papers signed, mortgage started, walls painted, late nights prepping and then, after what seemed like years, we crossed the threshold and you became a part of our world.

At our little round dining room table, dozens of friends and family joined us in laughter and wine and games. The number of Apples to Apples giggles and Trivial Pursuit 3am battles can’t be counted on one hand.  I tried my first Mary Kay product on at that table and signed the consultant paperwork there four years later. We squished in additional tables and chairs for nearly-annual Thanksgiving dinners and kids of all ages paraded around that room at birthday parties and playdates. There is a bleach mark on the floor from an uncaffeinated klutz moment. I became a proud housewife when I gained a variety of FiestaWare dishes and bowls and have had them displayed on a built-in cabinet’s shelves.

Oh, 296, your paint colors. There is a light blue throughout you that we chose because Cumberland Fog reminded us of a favorite little town just 30 miles away. Upstairs in what used to be Zack’s nursery are Sand Trap and Teeny Bikini because Daddy got to choose them for his little boy-to-be. We kept the seven shades of retro green in the kitchen and bathrooms. I still remember pointing at the different colors on one wall, both of us laughing so hard we had tears streaming down our faces.

We had big plans for the kitchen. We loved our tiny kitchen and its’ black-and-white tiled floor. But it was pretty tiny. Our five-year-plan had a dream kitchen that we even mapped out on paper. But you know, we made do. I can’t tell you how amazing chefs shared their talents and recipes in our limited counterspace. Uncle Paul’s spicy concoction and Aunt Alice’s incredible cleaning of a glass lid after several glasses of wine. Scott’s holiday dinners and specialties filling the whole house up with great smells.

One day from the upstairs bathroom I screamed a scream I didn’t think I was capable of and it sent Scott bounding up the stairs two at a time thinking there was some wild creature eating his new wife. It was a positive pregnancy test — our first one — and it was the beginning of our lives with Zack. We won’t even go into the morning sickness both kids brought to that poor bathroom.

I covered you with photographs, I hope you didn’t mind. Extended family on the stairway wall. A kids’ corner in the living room. Wedding photos on the stone mantle. Nature photos above the dining room arch.

I loved your stained glass windows. When Zack was an infant, he would crawl to the spot of floor covered in the yellow and green sunlight streaming in and coo and coo with a smile.

I spent so many moments on your front porch. Swinging away a bad day or taking in a beautiful start to another day. Holding Zack after his surgery, with Addie kicking us through my belly. Addie’s fearlessness always on those front steps. The friends who held my hand in moments I couldn’t get though on my own. My mom’s old rocking chair keeping guard by the door. The summer dinners we just started eating outside. I loved your wisteria trellis. I never minded the trimming and upkeep because twice a year, it rained long purple petals on the front sidewalk. It’s smell and those blooms made me feel so blessed in this house.

For years, our yard was neglected. But this Spring, we spent hours of sweat and swearing pulling weeds and digging sod and landscaping and planting. A beautiful bounty of vegetables and herbs greet me from the back sidewalk now and I am so, so proud of the work we put into this and the teamwork and partnership it symbolizes.

Our kids’ first words were uttered and first steps were taken inside your walls.

Down Syndrome was accepted and researched here.

Promises to friends and secrets that will never leave here.

My hair gained gray here. Scott lost some of his along the way.

I became the woman I am today here and we grew into our family here.

Lessons learned and griefs felt and transformations accepted.

For every tear, a thousand giggles and smiles, on the back steps and in the sunroom and everywhere in between.

I’ll never forget you.

And I miss you already.

 

(PS – Do you have a favorite memory or scene from our home? Please share)

We partied like it was… 2012?

We had ourselves a lil birthday shindig the other day.

In honor of a lovely two-year-old and her and her family’s journey.

There was (eventually) sunshine, friends and family fluttering about the living room and yard. Lots of catching up, some new friends and a happy momma with a very full and happy heart.

Thank you to those who traveled hours to be a part of our celebration; thanks to those who gave our lucky little girl some new clothes and toys and books; and a thank you to those who sacrificed things they should have been doing or wanted to be doing to be a part of our girl’s day.

 

I still can’t believe she is two.

Two going on 16.

 

Addie, you are loved!

 

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