Friday, January 30, 2009

My Sister the Nurse

My sisters are both amazing women (they just returned from a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru). Andrea, my youngest sister, is currently a senior nursing student graduating this Spring. Recently, her professors selected her as the nursing student at Bradley who most embodies the spirit of nursing. She's also eligible for a national award. She was asked to write an entrance essay -- it moved me so much that I wanted to share her words, with Andi's permission:

In my college experience, I have seen incredible beauty and suffered devastating losses, and my practice of nursing is rich because of that. Although I may not know how to define the Spirit of Nursing, I can certainly sense and feel the power of it. I see it as a nurse kneels to pray for her hospice patient late at night, long after her shift has ended. I see it in the grateful smile of a young girl when I playfully suggest we pretend we're at the beautiful parlor as I wash the lice out of her hair. I hear it as an elderly woman tells me her life's stories and wisdom, aware that her health is failing. I smell it in the smoky hug of a homeless man whose sore feet I have washed, and in the sweet scent of a healthy baby whose birth I witnessed only moments prior. I feel it when a man with COPD grips my hand in fear, and a child who's been deserted at a crisis nursery curls up in my lap to be loved. I feel the spirit deep in my soul every time a patient or family member thanks me for being there.

Each of these encounters has taken place in my few years of studying nursing. The homeless man was a mental health patient who became very dear to me, and that young girl at the "beauty parlor" resided at the same shelter as he. The elderly woman was my first patient, and from her I learned invaluable lessons. That sweet-smelling baby was my darling niece, and that hospice nurse knelt beside my very own mother. I strive to keep the compassionate Spirit of Nursing safe in my heart to spread to all my patients, because caring for the ones I love through illness has led me to this honorable, brave and sometimes painful profession. It's painful in the sense that it reminds me of those closest to me who have suffered heart conditions and cancer. However, my father once told me your happiness runs as deep as your pain. And it is that profound pain and happiness that compels me to care for each of my patients as I would my own loved ones. The nursing profession allows us to give a piece of ourselves to our patients. It may not be in the job description, but that's all part of the Spirit of Nursing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Blue Waffle Kind of Weekend

On Saturday, Madeline and I made blue waffles for Rob. Why? Why not! The real question is what color they might be next Saturday.

Kids are hilarious. Funnier than 30 Rock and The Office combined. This morning, after Madeline finished slurping the milk from her cereal bowl, she gently set it down, looked at me sweetly and said, "Cannonball." I just about spit out my own mouthful of cereal. Something I'm sure her daddy taught her. Here are a few other things that make me laugh on a daily basis:
  • Madeline setting a book in front of Maple and waiting for the dog to read it to her
  • Hearing Rob sing to Madeline during their nightly bathtime routine. Rubber ducky, you're the one? Nope. More like "I'm gonna wash your body..." by Justin Timberlake or "Wash my Body" to Mariah Carey
  • Hearing Madeline call a giant hand-me-down plastic doll from our neighbors, "Cute!" as she rocks it and loves it like a cherished family heirloom. This thing looks like an alien with wide set eyes and a disconnected head that dangles horror-film style. For some reason, it looks like it actually has breasts and it used to be one of those dolls that sits on a it has anatomical holes. Amy, if you're reading this, please don't take offense. Madeline loves it, but it freaks us out. Rob hid it in the garage once, but Madeline asked for it for an hour, so she and I turned the house over looking for it while he was at work. Madeline calls it Big Baby (not to be confused with Little Baby, which thankfully, isn't frightening to look at)
  • All the special guests who join us for activities. Madeline carefully seats Big Baby at the dining room table every day for lunch. A bit earlier today, Little Baby, Big Baby, Snowman, Baby Elmo, Dolly, Teddy and Hippo all sat on my lap to read a book. Madeline took this very seriously.
  • Madeline's first official floater in the bathtub last week. Rob walked in the door minutes after I pulled Madeline out of the tub. Laughing, I said to Rob, "Madeline has a little surprise for you -- go check the tub." We listened to Madeline tell her daddy to "Check the tub" all night.
Madeline loves the homemade Playdoh I made for her last week. Unfortunately, Maple did too. She thought it was some kind of sinful dog treat and inhaled the lump of salty dough in a single swallow -- sort of like a pelican taking down a fish. (And by salty, I mean it's like pouring a container of Morton's down your throat). For the remainder of the day, I alternated refilling her water bowl every hour and letting her outside every 20 minutes. Things stay interesting around here...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Madeline's Growing Up!

Today was Madeline's first day of "school"! She's enrolled two mornings a week for a Mother's Day Out program at a church about ten minutes away. This morning, when I asked her if she wants to go play with the kids, her only response was, "Sciiiii-ted!!!!!" (translation: excited) with all the energy of a two-year-old. So we got her dressed up this morning -- she chose her patent leather shoes -- and off she went to play with the other three children in her class, coloring, making bunny ears and learning that God loves her. Now when we ask her to smile, she plasters her face into a silly permanent grin that she'll hold as long as she has a laughing looks funnier and funnier as the expression gets harder for her to hold.

Madeline's growing up. At this rate, we're going to be packing her up and moving her into her college dorm soon. Okay, I'm being dramatic, but we did move her into her "big girl room" this weekend! She helped Rob put together her new bed -- the room is bright and colorful, with her very own watercolors framed on the walls. Madeline is also earning stickers left and right for the little dribbles she makes on the "big girl potty." Naturally, there's lots of cheering and hoopla on Rob and my part. So it took me by surprise when last week, she started cheering for me when I, uh-humm, stepped away ("Yay, Mom-meee!"). We're reading, learning, and slowly catching on to the ways of a todder. Give her choices. Let things go. And if you add the words "big girl" to anything, she'll want to try it. Offering her Big Girl Greenbeans looks like me with a bag of Swedish Fish.

I'll end with a funny picture (but please don't look at it too closely). On Sunday as Rob and I were focused setting up her room, it was very quiet for awhile, though we knew she was safe in our bedroom across the hallway. We soon learned why. She had raided my underwear drawer like college boys do in the movies and came around the corner wearing 12 pairs (I counted) around her waist! The best part is she left them on for hours!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Countdown begins!

We are having a BABY in eight weeks!!! Planning for the newest member of our family has finally come front and center after a whirlwind four months, which included our move from Peoria to Nashville, buying and selling a house, getting settled in a new place, and all the excitement and travel of the Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are so excited!

And focused too. It's wild to think that two weeks from now in my last pregnancy, I was in full-scale preterm labor with Madeline before I was placed on bedrest. So while we don't expect any hiccups, we're still being thoughtful that we may not have the full eight weeks of prep time that we expect with a March 4th due date. Our discussions about baby names have become more frequent and realistic. Just in the last two days, I've started my hospital packing list, pre-registered with Labor and Delivery at the hospital, bought newborn diapers and onesies, and I've been brushing up on the fuzzy bringing-home-baby details in books (it feels like a lifetime ago already). Thankfully, I'm feeling great and haven't slowed down much yet (with the exception of a pesky nerve in my back that can bring me to my knees...which is actually pretty funny when it happens).

More than anything, we feel our giddy excitement growing. Today I spent a minute looking at Madeline's newborn pictures -- when her little legs were folded up like a frog's and we simply gazed at each other for hours. It was sweet and even romantic to look at pictures of ourselves and our families, teary-eyed as we all passed her around for the first time. We can't wait to find out if our little one is a boy or a girl. Most of all, I know the love I already feel for this unborn thing that's kicking my bladder and punching my ribs will explode and grow exponentially just like it has with Miss Madeline! We are excited for her to have a brother or sister!

In honor of this new chapter of our lives that will be starting so soon, stay tuned for a updated blog title (and heck, since it's a new year, it will have a new look too)! But Madeline, if you're reading this years from now, the Adventures of Madeline May and her Dog Maple are not ending, sweetheart. They're only getting started!!! I love you, Little Girl!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy 2009!

It's so exciting to look out on a brand new year, filled with fresh adventures and goals! We loved every second of our Christmas and New Year's! And after more than two weeks and 2100 miles on the road, we're happy to be home again and settling in.

We had an awesome time in Geneva with Rob's parents, sister and grandma. They had their Christmas tree decorated with ornaments that Rob's grandma gave everyone each year, a tradition that began decades ago and still continues with us -- each one has unique significance and Madeline loved pointing to her favorites (Santa Cwaus! Mowse wif glasses...). The Vlach women prepared amazing homemade meals -- it felt wonderful to wander out in our pjs and relax like you only can when you're on holiday. Madeline was adored every second and showered with gifts on Christmas morning, including a Radioflyer wagon that she loves! Her commentary was hilarious -- if she opened clothes, she would say "Too cute!" as I heard the same words coming out of my own mouth. Her other favorite was "Oh boy!"and "Rip it!" as she helped everyone open every single present.

On Christmas Day, Mollie, Rob, Madeline and I drove up to Minocqua, Wisonsin to spend the next four days with my family. This year there was a full house -- so all the "kids" (which included Rob, me, Mollie, Andi, Kenny and Kyle) were in the big cabin, and my dad and Ning were in the cabin next door. They were fabulous, letting Madeline sleep in their extra bedroom, so we were able to clang pots, laugh extra loudly, and have wild dance parties (more to come on this) in the baby-free cabin. Nancy asked us all to send in three dance songs prior to the trip, which she downloaded onto her ipod. Three nights into the trip, we turned our quiet, peaceful cabin-in-the-woods into a full scale dance club (Kenny was our human disco ball in a plaid sportscoat lit up with colored Christmas lights). Even my dad was getting down. We took turns making meals for each other, went for a gorgeous hike in the new snow, read by the fire, spontaneously danced to the polka at Otto's (a German pub where a guy plays two trumpets at once) and let Miss Madeline entertain us from the time she woke till she crashed at night. Nancy gave us all matching monogrammed pajamas (even Madeline May, or Mimi as she's often called). It was a whole lot of fun. And when we're all together, we always take special time to remember my mom, who was a WHOLE lot of fun too! She just loved the holidays, and I always feel the closest to her when my entire family is together.

Then back to Geneva to spend more time with Rob's family! His mom and sister were so wonderful, getting up with Madeline almost every morning bright and early -- I haven't felt so rested in...well...two years! Nicki started a new exciting job in December, so she was a working girl, but still able to spend lots of time with us. On New Year's Eve, we had a blast with our dear friends, Erica and Craig with a wonderful meal at Isabella's in Geneva and some late night Wii. The next day, we drove to Rockford to visit with Buffy and Dan for their adorable daughter, Ellie's second birthday! At the very end of our trip, we were so unbelievable grateful to Rob's family for watching Madeline while Rob and I took a night away (Rob's Christmas gift to me)! We stayed at the Herrington Inn and Spa, which is only a mile away from Rob's folks house, but absolutley spectacular. Our balcony hung over the Fox River, and we sat in front of the fireplace in our room, talking and talking for hours (only after my prenatal massage, of course!)! Then we walked to a little Mexican place for dinner and talked some more! With a new baby arriving in eight short weeks, the time to reconnect -- talking about hobbies we want to revive, personal and family goals for 2009, baby names, and a fun business idea I'm entertaining -- was really special. On the last day of our trip, I co-hosted a baby shower for my good friend, Johanna, in downtown Chicago. Rob and Madeline picked me up from the shower, and we started our nine-hour trip back to Nashville.

Now we're back to our routine, which feels amazing! The weather here is spring by Chicago standards, so Madeline and I have been playing outside every day. This weekend, we're really excited to stay close to home and assemble Madeline's "Big Girl Room" and the new nursery! The countdown has begun!