Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happy Father's Day 2009!

Happy Father's Day to all the amazing dads in our life -- Papa John, Papa Tom and of course, our Rob!

We had a great time celebrating Rob this year -- and he deserves to be celebrated all right! He shows us every day how much he loves us, in big ways and little, working so hard for his family. So on Father's Day morning, we let him "sleep in" (which means means waking at 7:15am). Madeline and I handed him a cup of hot, black coffee (just the way he likes it) and began our special performance. Madeline, Charlie and I all put on our sunglasses and sang our rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic "We just called to say we love you." In our practice sessions, Madeline looked up and bobbed her head ala Stevie, but with Rob as an audience, suddenly she was more interested in doing hand stands and jumping all over daddy. But Charlie did a great Stevie impersonation! (That's because he loves staring at the ceiling fan). Afterwards, Madeline helped make Rob a pancake breakfast and later we went out for a Mexican lunch (Rob's favorite!). Then a sitter watched Charlie while Madeline napped so Rob and I could go on a date at Starbuck's and go shopping for him (he said it was the first time pants shopping has ever been fun).

The other half of Rob's Father's Day gift actually came two weeks ago. As a new member of the Mid Tennessee Fly Fishers club, he canoed six miles down the Buffalo River, casting off the water's edge. He even taught Madeline and me how to cast in our front yard!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Maple Vlach

There's a very important member of our family who hasn't gotten much air time lately. She's loyal to a fault, loves generously (despite our faults), asks for almost nothing, keeps our toes warm on the couch and best of all, she's a great listener. I'm talking about sweet Maple.

Maple was our first "baby." We picked her out of the Vizsla litter two days after her eyes opened -- she was only a few weeks old and she fit in the palm of our hand. She was the smallest, but we watched as she fought her way to the food bowl amidst the wriggling, wiggling tangle of puppies. We had pick of the litter and chose the runt. At eight weeks old, we brought her home, as all her brothers and sisters flew to their new homes around the country (some landed with Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox pitcher).

Maple was almost Sienna, Rojo or Cedar, but in the end, her coat was the color of maple syrup. The real inspiration for her name, though, was the Maple tree in our front yard at Parkside Drive. She's a Hungarian Pointer -- it's beautiful watching her body become rigid and straight from nose to tail when she sees a bird or squirrel. Her muscles quiver while she silently stalks.

Maple had two years as Top Dog before Madeline was born. We had a few interesting clean-ups after she attacked a cooling batch of chocolate cupcakes in the middle of the night, and after I fed her half a bag of carrots on a car trip (live and learn). But she never ate shoes, she learned quickly and she was adored. She even had her own spot in our bed. I don't know how I would have survived six weeks of bedrest without Maple's company -- I talked to her like a person and practiced my rusty french exercises on her (she even "saved" me from a trapped attic squirrel, or at least she thought she did).

Then Madeline was born, and Charlie 23 months later. Maple is matronly, calm and protective, though admittedly, a little displaced when the babies first come home. I think she thinks our children are her puppies. She's a shadow, following us everywhere thoughout the house, literally underfoot (she even comes into the restroom sometimes and I accidentally step on her daily). But lately, Rob or I have had to ask, "Where's Mapes?" only to find her sleeping under Charlie's bassinet or Madeline's crib.

She has just as much a personality as any person. A sweet little disposition -- classy and dignified but playful too. She's gentle and loving, even as Madeline is pulling her ears and tail, and we pretend like she's a trail horse, giving rides around the first floor. When she cuddles, she grinds her head into you. And when she's excited, her tail wags so fast, it's like little hummingbird wings (sometimes you hear it before you see it when she senses you walking into a dark room).

She doesn't sleep in our bed anymore, but she's certainly not demoted. She's our Maple, our Mapes, our Map-el-y Mapes and we love her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Day in the Life

I love it when people ask me what Madeline, Charlie and my days are like. We have so much fun! Today, I kept a notebook and camera in my pocket -- here's the closest I've come to Twittering...

  • 6:20am: Charlie chirps. I pull him out of his bassinet and nurse him back to sleep, dozing myself until the next "alarm clock" goes off....
  • 7:00am: "Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Daddy Daddy Daddy Daddy! I all done"! (Madeline's awake). I detangle myself from Charles like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and run to grab Madeline without waking the baby.
  • 7:30am: Madeline's dressed and we're eating breakfast. I start the coffee maker, which Rob has already set up for me before he left the house at 6:15am. Madeline wants a cup of coffee too, so I warm up some milk for her in a Waffle House mug and we both drink our "coffee." While we're eating, we notice that the baby bunny that lives in our backyard is sitting right outside the dining room window. The next 30 minutes are consumed with the "yittle rabbit." We step outside to look closer (I'm hoping neighbors don't see me in my PJs and crazy hair) and discover a baby Robin at the bottom of the deck stairs. Madeline tells the Robin he can't play with her toys. Then she tells him he can (I praise her for sharing).
  • 8:00am: Hear Charlie over the monitor. While I'm nursing in the living room, Madeline silently unlocks the back door and lets Maple into the back yard. Sorry yittle baby bird. (I later see him alive and well.)
  • 8:30am: Meg jumps in shower while Charlie watches the ceiling fan and Madeline plays with the toys I've carried into my bedroom.
  • 8:33am: Shower done. Shaved to knee. Hair clean - what more can you ask for? Blow dry bangs. Let the rest of my hair air dry into frizzy curls that I'll pull back into a poofy pony (that's a technical term).
  • 8:36am: Deoderant on. Pull on clean clothes out of the nearest laundry basket. Swipe of mascara and blush. Charlie wants to be picked up.
  • 9:00am: Nursing Charlie again. It's only been an hour, but he's gnawing off his fingers. I hear water running in the guest bathroom. Mental note: The gate's closed at the top of the stairs, so Madeline must be safe, right? Charlie falls right back asleep -- I lay him gently in the bassinet and go to investigate...
  • 9:10am: Find Madeline sitting in the sink. Fully clothed, soaking wet and lathered in foamy white bar soap. The only way I can wash the suds off her is to strip her down. Realize my life will not be complete if I don't get a picture of this. I'm trying not to laugh as I tell Madeline that it's not safe to climb into the sink and that the water can get hot. Hope DCFS doesn't see this blog post.
  • 9:20am: Re-dress/diaper Madeline. Make a batch of play-doh together. Two minute conversation with my grandma confirming our plans to visit Arkansas over the Fourth of July!
  • 10:10am: Go outside to play while Charlie sleeps. Madeline climbs in the Jeep saying, "I go to work at Caterpillar. You can come, Mommy!" We open the garage and play with every tricycle, wagon and Big Wheel we own. We practice the words "go" and "stop" (which I saw on Nanny 911 last night) with all the neighbor kids. Madeline runs her little heart out when I say go, but hasn't grasped stop yet. We'll keep working on it.
  • 10:45am: The juice bandit strikes again, breaking and entering into our neighbors' garage for a Capri Sun.
  • 11:01am: Charlie's awake! All smiles! (Yep. He sleeps in a pink bassinet. And he wore a pink hat the pool this weekend. Sorry Charlie.)
  • 11:10am: Madeline plays with her new blue Play-doh now that it has cooled off. It's starting to sprinkle outside -- I'm relieved that we spent the morning outside running off energy. Madeline and Charlie both want my attention -- feel like a human beach ball. Madeline requests a dance party to Kanye (calling him by name!), then changes her mind to play with her dress ups.
  • 11:20am: Charlie hungry again. Notice a pattern here? Nurse. Madeline hungry for attention and brings Play-doh into living room after I asked her not to. Bye Bye Play-doh. It joins a few other toys on top of the refrigerator. Charlie's lunch is interupted...
  • 11:28am: Lunch for Madeline. Finish nursing Charlie at the dining room table. Slap a Boca burger on a piece of bread for myself and wash it down with the milk left over in Madeline's sippy cup. Still starving -- nursing makes me hungry as a rhinoceros. No time to eat. I hear Madeline making a break for it out the front door...
  • 11:50am: It's raining so we go upstairs to play with her Little People. Mads wants to hold "her Charlie."
  • 12:15pm: Toys start flying shortly after (Madeline's throwing them). She wakes up Charlie, who has dozed off. As I try again to lay Charlie in his bassinet, Madeline turns the clock radio volume on high, flips lights on and off, hurls herself on and off my bed. Charlie awake again. It's like our house is a pinball machine and Madeline's the ball -- it's clearly nap time. Mommy feels patience rapidly dwindling like the half-deflated baby pool in the backyard.
  • 12:35pm: Put Madeline down for a nap.
  • 12:40pm: Put Charlie in swing; he's asleep in seconds.
  • 12:50pm: Inhale....Exhale.... Deep breath. Cortisol still kind of pumping. Think about how a cigarette sounds strangely good. Interesting since I'm not a smoker. Think how I shouldn't write this on the blog.
  • 12:55pm: Cut up a fresh pineapple and catch up with a girlfriend on the phone to relax. Post the first half of this blog. Start prepping dinner. Tidy first floor.
  • 2:39pm: Charlie's awake!
  • 2:43pm: Madeline's awake!
  • 2:45pm: I just start nursing Charlie when Maple goes nuts. Our neighbor, Robert, is at the door. When he bends over to talk to Madeline, she shyly clutches my leg, and before I know it, she has accidentally exposed my backside (this is not an exaggeration for comedic effect). Robert and I laugh off the awkwardness, but as soon as he's gone, I quickly make sure I'm not wearing faded and fraying underwear from the college years that look like they've been run over by a Fed Ex truck.
  • 3:15pm: Finally get back around to nursing Charlie, who once again, has been interupted as he tries to eat. Slather Mads in sunscreen and go outside to play with our neighbors in their kiddie pool.
  • 4:00pm: Charlie's exhausted and falls asleep for an hour. Madeline, Maple and I play some more with the neighbor kids and dogs until Charlie wakes up. Nurse. Again. Madeline is so sweet and good-natured, but she is two afterall and is testing limits. She wants to hit, so she has what we call "a little alone time" for a minute. When I tell her she's welcome to come and play again, she says no thanks and happily sits on the stairs a bit longer. Once again, I have to stifle a laugh because I think I'm supposed to be serious. Big hugs and kisses when she decides to join us 30 seconds later.
  • 6:00pm: Throw meat on the grill while Madeline plays on her slide and Charlie bounces in his chair.
  • 6:10pm: Rob's home! He's earlier than usual and we're excited. He plays outside with Madeline at her water table, then the two of them help finish dinner. Madeline is hungrily pilfering pineapple from our dinner plates before the meal has started.
  • 6:30pm: Sit down, say grace and eat. Madeline keeps saying, "Mommy, this is reallllly good" and when Rob asks her how her day was, she answers, "It was wonderful."
  • 6:50pm: Bath time for Madeline! Usually Rob does the night time routine, but tonight she wants me to do it, so Rob and Charlie have some guy time. After bathtime (lots of singing and scrubbing), we put on Madeline's PJs, read a story and say our bedtime prayer. Before we say amen, she adds that she wants to thank God for Ning. Door is closed by 7:05pm.
  • 7:06pm: Rob gets Charlie ready for bed. I nurse and carry a passed-out 17-pound baby upstairs and deposit him in his bassinet while Rob cleans up dinner and tidies first floor (again).
  • 8:45pm: Sit down on the couch. Sip a glass of $7 wine (tastes like a million bucks, as though I would even know the difference). Catch up on our day (the bits that we couldn't cover between Elmo talk). Watch House. Climb into bed (but not before gazing at sweet sleeping Charlie). I'll be up once or twice before tomorrow begins, but that's just fine with me. It's the kind of mental and physical exhaustion that comes after hard and satisfying work. I love my job!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mollie and Kenny are Engaged!

My sister, Mollie, got engaged this weekend! Her boyfriend, Ken, proposed on a hike in Aspen's Maroon Bells, in Colorado where each of them lives. In Mollie's own words, "I couldn't be happier - I'm marrying my soul mate!" We simply couldn't be happier either!

Mollie is so generous, funny, supportive, creative, beautiful and humble -- she is the best friend that anyone could ask for (just ask Andi, Kenny or me!). She deserves incredible happiness and love...that's why Ken is the perfect partner for her. They complement each other beautifully -- anyone who's around them comments on how in love they are. Kenny is so thoughtful and romantic -- we're all so happy he'll officially be a part of our family!

After the hike (Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed sites in North America), Mols and Kenny celebrated with 10 of their closest friends at a chili, beer and music festival in Snowmass (near Aspen). The ring is also worth noting -- it has been in the family for many generations, and the band was designed by our mom.

Congratulations, Mollie and Ken! We're thrilled!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Charlie Laughs

The sweet little gurgles we've been hearing from Charlie can only be called a laugh. My friend Erica said it best -- he looks like he's smiling from his toes. He's a happy, relaxed, easy-to-please little guy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ha ha ha!

We've been laughing a lot lately. Kids are natural comedians, and sleep deprivation can create some pretty funny situations too. Here's a collection of things that have made us chuckle over the last couple of weeks...

  • Last night as I got Madeline ready for bed, Rob ran the garbage disposal in the kitchen directly beneath her bedroom. The low rumble sounded like a distant storm, and Madeline matter-of-factly said, "That's punder."
  • This came maybe 20 minutes after asking us in a barely audible voice to "whister" at the dinner table because her Little Baby Boy was trying to sleep.
  • On a regular basis, Madeline waits until no one's looking and in the blink of an eye, charges over to our neighbors' house -- breaking into their minivan for the Cheese Nips she knows are there, or sneaking into their garage fridge for a stash of Capri Suns.
  • And finally, the other night Madeline got so excited when she saw her daddy's car getting home from work. Rob pulled her into his lap for her first driving lesson. After a particularly intense day of toddler independence and boundary-testing, my mind flashed forward to driver's permits, curfews and teenage years. Oh boy....
Then there's little Charlie! Just look at this guy with his pot belly, double chin and bald head wearing a "Chicks Dig Me" onesie, a gift from our friends Erica and Craig.

And finally, there are the whispered calls I've gotten from Rob at the office, bleary-eyed from Charlie's newborn sleep schedule, the pre-dawn alarm clock and from getting ready for work in the dark. The first call came because the poor guy forgot to shave. He pulled off the interstate, bought a razer and shaved in a gas-station bathroom. Another time, he got mixed up and wore jeans a week early for a company-sponsored records retention day (he jokingly told people who teased him that he was "raising awareness" so other's don't forget). And my favorite... He called whispering so quietly I had to ask him to repeat himself several times. When I finally heard what he said, tears streamed down my cheeks with laughter. He had worn two different shoes to work!