Monday, September 28, 2009

Babies Gone Wild

What do you get when you put seven babies and eight college friends under one roof? Raucous fun, Rock Band, pillow forts and some pretty hilarious trips down memory lane.

This weekend, we went to Brown County, Indiana, with my Delta Gamma girlfriends, Erin, Jamie and Tara, and their families. At two and a half, Madeline was the oldest child; the youngest is due in eight weeks. We've known each other for 13 years -- we were already best friends when each of us met, dated and married our husbands. We've shared bedrooms and apartments, hosted bridal showers and baby showers, bathed each other's kids, and helped each other through really tough times too. This weekend was the first time most of us met each other's newest baby boys.

The guys watched football and whaled on their plastic guitars while the girls sipped wine and talked until 1am. As the exciting weekend approached, Rob and I joked that it was going to be Cirque de Soleil. But it was surprisingly relaxing! We've scheduled our next trip for late April 2010 and I'm already counting down the weeks (30).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Growing Up Fast!

Madeline started school in late August and absolutely loves it! There were tears at the first three drop offs (and not just hers...). As soon as she was out of sight I admit to blubbering as I watched her run into the school room, pigtails bouncing, with her oversize backpack and plush cat lunch box. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, she wakes up excited to brush her hair and teeth, put on her running shoes and help pack a healthy lunch so she can go "play with the kids." The preschool is in our neighborhood, which is wildly convenient; she's home in time for a nice, long nap after a busy morning. Last week, her class had Show-and-Tell, highlighting the letter C. Madeline proudly showed off a picture of Charlie wearing his mini Cubs uniform.

And speaking of Charlie, he's rocking on all fours. Since crawling isn't far off, baby proofing and regular vacuuming (ugh) is back on my To Do list. He's also sitting up, with the occasional face-plant ("Timber!"). And finally, he learned how to put himself to sleep a few weekends ago with minimal tears. Rather than rocking him all the way to sleep, we now lay him in his crib awake and he takes it from there. Last night he slept 13 hours without a peep. We're so proud of him! Or as Madeline would say, "He should be so proud of himself!"

We also had an extra special visit from Rob's mom and grandma. Madeline adores her Grammy and Gigi! They kept her entertained with water balloons, games and lots of stories. We had a fun lunch at a Swedish bakery in downtown Franklin, and they even sent Rob and me on a date. We are eager to see everyone again at Thanksgiving.

It's easy to happily gloss over these highlights with exclamation points and pride. But the truth is, I was an emotional wreck for weeks. Sending Madeline to preschool was a big decision. And letting Charlie cry for the first time as he learned to self-soothe? I think I'd rather be waterboarded just at the thought of it (and in the end, my dread was much worse than the actual process). They're growing up at lightening speed and I know it's going to keep getting faster. I feel like Rip Van Winkle -- one day will I wake up and they'll be grown? Yes. They will. I just have to slow it down by keeping life simple -- by absorbing, inhaling and cherishing every minute. Thank God for daddies (for so many reasons). Rob balances my hyper (hormonal?) sentimentality with a chuckle and a hug. He hands me my car keys at Charlie's first whimper over the monitor. Best of all, he's here to enjoy it all with me, and to remember it affectionately when diapers, lullabies and sweet potato puree are distant memories.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gulf Shores, Alabama!

Within 15 minutes of pulling into Gulf Shores, Madeline peeled off all her clothes and ripped off her diaper, then rolled around in the soft sand and splashed in the warm waves. It was one of the greatest moments of my life -- watching her pure, uninhibited joy as she experienced the beach for the first time.

We had a wonderful vacation. Something really amazing happened over the course of nine days: Our little family of four knitted together even closer. We started an annual tradition. Rob put it best the last night of our stay during grace when he gave thanks for the chance to fall in love with his family all over again.

Our condo wasn't fancy or stylish (sponge paint and light-up dolphin "art") but it was clean and only a staircase away from the beach. Madeline spent most of her time happily swimming and kicking in the pool, wearing hand-me-down water wings from the dollar store (so much for the $40 life vest I ordered). Charlie loved the water in his floating lady bug.

Any trip with two kids under two-and-a-half is a working vacation. Rob and I took turns going to the beach when the little ones were napping. It took us a few days to adjust to our first beach vacation where "relaxing" still involved night-wakings, diaper changes and nap schedules. But after the first few days, we fell into a routine; we let a new definition of vacation -- family vacation -- wash over us. That's when the real fun began! We ate fresh seafood daily, walked on the beach, flew a kite, played cards, read books and sunbathed.

I should have tried on my bikinis before packing. They pre-date babies, but get so little use that I couldn't bear to buy new ones. When I'm not nursing, I'm about as voluptuous as Madeline. Squeezing into my honeymoon triangle tops was a little ridiculous; I felt like a freckly X-rated Pam Anderson at the family pool.

Here are some of my favorite moments from our trip:
  • On the drive there and back, Madeline excitedly squealed, "Look, it's the Eiffel Tower!" every time we passed a cell or municipal water tower
  • During a heated Crazy Eights game, my (normally) super cool husband, who was losing badly, muttered, "Arf" under his breath. I waited a good 10 seconds before I asked him, "Did you really just say "Arf"? We laughed until we were crying and it became an ongoing joke. He's still living it down in my book
  • Madeline, who's in the midst of toilet training, kept requesting Carrie Underwear (Underwood) for dance parties
  • Eating Royal Reds -- giant lobster-tasting shrimp pulled out of the Gulf, tossed onto our table and served with melted butter -- at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant two minutes from our condo that Coastal Living ranked one of the 10 best seafood joints
  • The sofas in our condo were marine-themed (I know. Yikes). Madeline got excited when she saw starfish and counted, "Look Mom! One, two, three rockstars!" (a term of endearment in our family).
  • At the grocery store, I asked Rob, sounding a little worried, if we had enough grits at home or if we needed more. He said you know you live in the south when grits become a food staple.
Now that we're home again, Rob's a little sad he has to wear shoes (and misses having a cold beer with lunch). We're already planning our next Vlach Family Vacation in Fall 2010!