Friday, August 27, 2010

A Vlach-Tastic Summer

We've had an absolute blast this summer! Now that Madeline's 3 1/2 and Charlie's 18 months, we're on the go, even more so lately because Charlie is dropping his morning nap. We've been visiting the zoo, swimming in our neighborhood pool a few times a week, climbing on the playground before the sun is fully up, wading in the stream that winds around a walking loop we enjoy, playing in the warm rain, jumping at Jump Zone (a warehouse filled with inflatables), and otherwise filling our days with friends, play dates, birthday parties, sprinklers and an endless supply of popsicles. It's been so hot, even the ice cream man stopped coming around. I guess everyone stays inside when it's 104 degrees.

This morning, as we were leaving a pottery painting birthday party, Madeline ran ahead and held the door open for me. She said something I couldn't quite understand, then hustled to open the next door in the vestibule. When she repeated herself a second time, I realized that she was saying, "After you, my dear." She told me that's what daddy always says. These days, she's bursting with ideas, pointing out her letters everywhere we go and asking "Why?" non stop. I'm surprised by how often I have to reference Wikipedia to answer a 3-year-old's questions. She loves to collect things she finds, like acorns, and she's so excited to practice cutting with her monkey scissors that so far, she's clipped Charlie's shoelaces and a small chunk of her own hair. She'd be happy to wear her brother's outgrown onesies every day. We've compromised, and I simply ask that she wears her clothes over them when we leave the house.

Madeline calls Charlie her Little Man. They have giggle fits at the dinner table, in the car and before bedtime that are the best entertainment ever. I always stop whatever I'm doing to absorb the sound of both my children laughing together. Maybe cars of the future will run on that stuff. Ten seconds of it can erase a day's worth of frustrations.

Charlie can entertain himself for 20 minutes just playing with a zipper. He loves to kiss and hug! It's irresistible, even when he comes at you covered in snot and leftover yogurt, lips pursed and arms outstretched. He's such a boy, banging trucks, growling like a lion, and pointing out cars; all this while wearing Madeline's sundress and rhinestone dress up necklaces. He is a man who knows what he wants, even though he can't quite tell us what that is yet. If Madeline's in a "why stage," then Charlie is surely in a temper tantrum phase. If I put pineapples in his bowl and he wanted them on the plate, oh boy, he'll unleash a torrent of Charlie-fury.... As we try to articulate things for him, he'll emphatically nod or shake his head, understanding every word. I love how when we're reading books, he tries to open the car door in a photograph or lift an apple off the page to eat. He's tough as nails. The kid doesn't bat an eyelash when he gets swept off his feet, bowled over and tripped up. But with six teeth coming in, last night he woke up crying. I couldn't believe how heavy he was as I lifted his limp body out of this crib. He laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around my neck while I gently rocked him; his legs dangled past my knees.

This is the hardest work I've ever done. It takes stamina, endurance, creativity (it's not easy getting a kid to do something they don't want to do) and reserves of patience that I think would challenge Mother Teresa. But it's truly the most fun I've ever had in my whole life!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Learning to Walk Again

Another year.

Yesterday marked another whole year without my mom. I wish she could get on the floor and play with Madeline and Charlie -- smell them and know them, rock them to sleep, make them clothes and paint murals in their nurseries. I wish she could give me a hug in my moments of doubt. I wish I could have a glass of wine with her and hear her fabulous laugh. I wish she was picking out Mother of the Bride dresses for both of my sisters' weddings. I even wish she was here to annoy me or give me unsolicited advice, because let's face it, occasionally we did that to each other just like all normal mothers and daughters do.

It aches how much I miss her sometimes. The last five years have been like learning to walk, then run, on a prosthetic. Like the guy who sprinted past me in the last mile of the Chicago marathon on one leg, right at the moment when I thought maybe I couldn't finish the race running. I saw him and I tapped into a reserve that carried me forward. My mom gave me skills and confidence to thrive without her. That's my reserve; it was a gift from her.

At first losing my mom was about survival. Now it's about keeping her memory alive every single day. By telling stories, channeling her joie de vivre, making decisions that require courage and faith. Most of all by being the mom to Madeline and Charlie that she was to me -- present in the moment, silly, assertive, loving, sympathetic and supportive.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tomorrow's a New Day

Mommy got worked over today. My patience and composure were beaten to a pulp. It was one of those days, as trite as that expression may sound. One kid wouldn't nap in the morning. The other wouldn't nap in the afternoon. No naps equals crabby command central (on all of our parts). I started the day tired and never got a rest. And that's rough because in the world of motherhood, no kid is ever gonna say, "Gosh mom. You must be pretty wiped. Why don't you take a break and I'll just make myself lunch?"

We're out of Splenda -- I couldn't figure out the coffee-to-milk-to-sugar ratio and never got caffeine in my system. A chewed up cap on a sippy cup meant water was dripping through my leather purse and dying my white dress a shade of red. You're probably wondering why any mother of a three and one year old is wearing white, and here's the answer: you can bleach the hell out of it. But that doesn't do any good when it looks like you have a giant period stain and you're walking through the grocery store. And Charlie woke up with a cold -- he's a drippy, gooey, fussy-but-sweet bundle of something special today.

I feel lingering shame that I actually raised my voice at least three times. Quite loudly. I may have even clapped my hands for effect. In my old job, I got a performance rating at the end of the quarter. Today may have brought down my average a little, but all I can do is forgive myself, remember that I'm human and do better tomorrow. Much better.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy 32nd Birthday, Rob!

We had so much fun celebrating Rob's 32nd birthday! And this guy seriously deserves to be celebrated -- he's an amazing, devoted, thoughtful, hardworking and selfless husband and dad. So this year, lots of people chipped in to make his birthday super special!

On Friday night, my dad and Ning sponsored a relaxed pizza party with our friends the Vaneks and the Tepners, as well as their children, and my sister, Andi (who was in on the big weekend plans from the beginning).

The next day, Andrea gave Rob the greatest birthday present ever! She watched Madeline and Charlie while I took Rob away for a fun birthday in downtown Nashville. We stayed in the stylish Hotel Indigo just a couple of blocks from all the Music Row action. After a hilarious but failed attempt at eating spicy fried chicken at a popular joint on the other side of town, we decided to do something we've never done before and be tourists in our own town, taking cheesy pictures and acting like a couple of kids. People kept asking us where we were from, as we posed in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, General Jackson's Showboat, and giant cowboy boots along the famous Broadway Street. What started as a post-lunch beer at Nashville's Yazoo Brewery turned into a bar crawl, which naturally made our touristy pictures even more hilarious to us. We ate fried catfish and oysters for dinner and listened to live music. The next morning, we ate at Pancake Pantry, a Nashville classic that always has a line outside the doors, winding around the street.

Back on the home front, Andi had a blast with the kids! It was so fun to see them all again on Sunday! Andi had them bathed, dressed and happy when we walked in the door.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hot as a Mutha

It's a record high heat day in Middle Tennessee. As a new Tennessee gal, I'm learning that it's a different kind of heat than I'm used to (and it's not like I moved here from Alaska).

It's 95 degrees right now in the shade. The heat index is 108. You can feel sweat drip down your back just walking outside to get the mail, and there's no breeze to wick it away. My underwear are soaked (way too much information, I know). When Madeline takes off her bike helmet, she looks like she just played in the sprinkler.

So why does today have to be the day that the batteries ran out on the thermostat (and who knew that shuts off the air conditioning?) I came upstairs to put the kids down for their nap and the second level of our house had climbed to 85 degrees in an hour's time. Just to add insult to injury, the freon in my car already needs its second refill for the summer. And to make things especially interesting, Rob and I both ran out of deodorant yesterday (what are the chances), and I didn't get to Target until about 4:30pm. I'm sure we were both fresh as daisies.

No real way around it. It's just hot as a mutha.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The St. Louis Bride

Two weekends ago, we had a wonderful bridal weekend in St. Louis to celebrate Andrea's October wedding to Kyle! Mollie flew in from Denver, Ning drove from Minneapolis, I flew from Nashville (almost missing my flight because of Joe Biden's airport security) and Anita, Kyle's mother, drove in from Bloomington, IL.

Friday night, we enjoyed our first glimpse at the charming house Andi and Kyle bought, then walked off our pizza feast with a stroll through their new neighborhood for snow cones. We woke up Saturday in full bridal mode. Mollie and Andi (both fall brides!) picked out vintage jewelry at a retro store; Ning treated me to a 1950's dress right out of Mad Men, complete with a tulle slip and white gloves to finish the look (my next dinner party ensemble?). Then Mollie and I hosted a bridal shower for Andi at The Sister's Tea House with a light lunch and festive gift opening. Just as Andi and I did for Mollie in February, we gave Andrea a Tiffany necklace engraved with her new married monogram.

Afterward, we watched Andi try on her wedding dress -- she looked breathtaking! And she chose lovely bridesmaid dresses -- a soft blue Grecian style that perfectly compliments her intimate vineyard wedding at Chaumette Winery.

That night, we kicked off our heels and had a relaxed taco bar at home. We capped off a perfect weekend the next day with brunch, shopping, a Vietnamese Pho dinner (Andi's treat!), custard and the girly wedding movie, When in Rome. Rob had a blast with Madeline and Charlie back in Nashville all weekend long -- it was such a gift to be able to slip away for a celebratory bridal weekend!