Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oxygen mask

My Guy called and from the background noise, I could tell he was on his way home: “Get the girls and come downstairs in ten minutes.”


“I have something to show you.”

“What? Did you get a puppy?” I was only half joking. After losing our dog last year, he knew I wasn’t ready to commit to another so soon.

“No, it’s better than a puppy,” was all he said. He sure knew how to pique my interest.

I gathered the girls and told them about the surprise, which motivated them to speed up on getting their shoes on when it would normally take two minutes per shoe from all the shiny objects with which they would distract themselves.

We went downstairs and waited. And waited. Then I saw it.



Nope. It wasn’t a puppy.

My Guy pulled up in a shiny silver convertible. A six-speed manual roadster, to be exact, and I was a little confused. Did he borrow it from his friend (who also had the same car)?

“No, I bought it.”

My jaw dropped. That is, after he finally convinced me that it was ours. His, really, because where the heck would the girls fit in that thing? They were no less enthusiastic about it though, even if they could never ride in it. Kids are easy like that.

Once I got over my initial shock (because who comes home with a second car for funsies??!), I was relieved it wasn’t a puppy.

And then it all started to make sense.

Since we sold our last car that did double duty as a useful family car and a fun track car, My Guy, a.k.a. the Car Guy, has yet to find his groove on the road with our new family SUV. I love that he made that sacrifice for his family, but now with his own I-do-what-I-want car, his pep is back. And I love that even more.

It’s amazing what passion does for a person. Whether it’s work or life, My Guy has always been about living passionately, finding that thing that gets his heart racing and being uncompromising (in a good way) about the things that make him who he is. I respect and admire him greatly for that.

In fact, he was back at the tracks this weekend - the one we used to go to every year when we had our last car - nurturing that passion that’s been in his blood ever since I’ve known him, loving every moment his foot hit the pedal and the wind roaring past him, with the sun on his face. The mom in me reminded him about the sunscreen, of course, but the rest of the details were all his to sweat.

I was home with the girls, and with a project deadline looming, I had plenty in my hands. We didn’t make track weekend a family thing this time only because with the amount I had on my plate (two kids at home, summer activities, freelance work, housekeeping, vacation planning), I couldn’t even fathom looking for a hotel and packing everyone up just for three days. Besides, I really wanted him to have a guys’ weekend with his best friend.

After waking well before me and going to bed long after me just to keep his clients happy for the past couple of weeks, he deserved this commitment-free weekend so he could fully focus on himself. We are big on the oxygen mask theory of parenting - we take care of ourselves so we are better able to take care of others.

And this weekend was a delirious breath of fresh air for him. Seeing him happy made me happy.

As for his girls, we had the kind of weekend that made us crawl into bed and fall asleep the moment our head touched our pillow. In three days, we had two beach dates with friends, one brunch and play date, a mamas’ night in, a trip to the farmers’ market and several to neighborhood parks. 

Janina with our beloved cleaning lady, who’s been with us since Little Miss was 11 months old,
and who loves the girls like her own grand kids

We would come into the house drenched in the essence of summer, with sand coating the bottom of our feet, the vague scent of BBQ from neighboring grills in our hair, and a fresh new hue of golden-brownness on our skin. With daddy away, we also watched “The Sound of Music”, because, apparently, it’s the Estrogen Tradition.

In between activities, however, the two-year-old would pout, hang her head low, and declare sadly, “I miss my daddy...” but that was the only “glitch” to an otherwise busy but enjoyable time apart as a family.

As sweet as that sounds, I’ll admit it wasn’t an apple pie weekend - the girls did drive me crazy at certain points (“Mommy, she poked my eye!” “No I didn’t!” “Yes you did” “No!” “Owwwww!”), but thanks to my lovely neighbor, I was able to get in an evening run while they slept, and that was the balm I needed to make it through the next 20 hours of solo parenting.

No, it wasn’t bad at all, but for an introvert who craves solitude, keeping the weekend filled with social activities and being bombarded with questions and needless noise were a little much for me. I desperately needed some me time.

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As I ran, I watched the evening glow fade into darkness and the people playing beach volleyball or huddling together to watch “Life of Pi” as Movies at the Park reached our part of the city this past weekend. An hour of that, and I felt centered again, but I was also soaked in perspiration, so when the rain began to fall on my last few steps home, I lingered for the cleansing. A perfect end to a much needed run.

Once I had dinner, showered, and picked up around the house, I finally felt like I was ready to tackle my work at almost 11PM on Saturday night. But I was energized, and the quiet of the night helped me focus. It wasn’t ideal that it was late, but we do what we have to do.

I needed my oxygen mask too.

When My Guy came home the next day in a new shade of tan, we sat down to a lively dinner that I threw together after our beach date with friends. We went through pictures from My Guy’s trip and ate plums from our jaunt to the market.

There were tales from both sides of the table, well, all three sides actually since Pickle, who sat at the head of the table, had her own stories to share: “Me went to the beach with Grady and Dyson (not their real names). Me went to the market. Me picked blueberries!”

I exchanged looks with My Guy, “Err...we didn’t pick blueberries.”

Not sure how that one got in, considering she has never done that before in her life, but she got props for her imagination.

After dinner, as per our usual bed time ritual, their daddy read them stories and sang them their favorite lullabies while I put away the dishes. We both had a few minutes to unwind before going back to the same project that has been keeping us busy this past month. In different corners of the house, we tapped away at our computer into the wee hours of the night.

Breaking from routine felt nice. But it was also necessary, because it made coming back to the familiar even better.

Lungs filled. Hearts full.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer lovin’

Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on around here. ‘Tis the season.

And if you ask any Chicagoan, why in the world would we choose to live here, where the winters are six months long and frigid, the landscape is flat and uninspiring (hello, miles and miles of corn fields), and the potholes on the road might as well be craters, not to mention the horrendous traffic congestion during rush hour, we would probably give you a one-word response: summer.

We live for the summer.

Even rainy ones, because when My Guy needs to take the girls out to burn energy after a rain, this happens, much to their sheer and utter delight.


When we live only two doors down from the beach, where Lake Michigan dazzles us with a different shade of shimmering blue or green on most days, it’s difficult not to jump on the first chance to get outside this season.

Because we know how fleeting this time is.


So we literally get down on our hands and knees and relish every moment we have in the sun. Even if it means sweeping and vacuuming three times a day and still finding sand in our beds. ($*@%$*!) Maybe that part I won’t miss so much.

Sure, it can get a little hot and humid around here, too, but that’s what these things are for right?

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His and hers.

photo 1 (30)
When my girls only ate half their strawberries, and I had a half-drunk bottle of wine, together with grapes and nectarines that are getting old in the fridge, I made the best of it; I made sangria.

photo 1 (27)But nice days are not just for drinking. Here, my girls indulge in some calamari, and I sacrifice my favorite part, the tentacles, to Little Miss. *sigh*

photo 5 (9)And this is how we get our snack on, in appropriate snack-time fashion, of course.

Also, as of mid-June, Little Miss has been at home with us for the summer. We’ve been trying to keep her active and busy with Play Camp, play dates, and swim classes, and it’s a good plan until I realize that her activities are keeping me busy too, what with the ferrying to and fro events on top of trying to manage a semi-clean house (because clean-clean with two kids at home all day is as commonplace as a unicorn in my car), feeding hungry little and not-so-little people (and they’re always hungry!), and working on a pretty intense part-time project that’s monopolizing my time when the girls are asleep or away.

photo 4 (11)

However, in between scheduled activities, I give her impromptu mani-pedis and she spends hours (okay, maybe an hour at most, which is still a lot for a girl who normally has ants in her pants) reading her library books when her sister is napping. But she’s reading. READING!!!

And while she develops this newfound passion, I continue to nurture mine, although I have to admit, running in this heat s.u.c.k.s. It is painful to run a mile with the sun beating down on me, let alone five, so I have to get my sorry ass out of bed before my kids do in the morning to get my run in.

Let me tell you, I’m not enjoying that part. My nocturnal self hates my alarm in the morning, but I still drag myself out of bed because every time I do get out there, I appreciate the quiet, early-morning streets of a still-slumbering city that affords me much needed tranquility, and, at the end, I am rewarded with this view.

photo (62) And this makes it worth it to me.

I also thought, hey, if I kept signing up for races, I’d have to continue to run to train in this heat. Uhm…no…that’s not happening. This race happened in early June, before it was officially summer, but even then it was a struggle. My self-preservation instincts are telling me that I won't be crossing another finish line again until after September.

But let’s not even go there yet. We just celebrated the Fourth of July, and it feels like summer is finally in full swing.

On Independence Day, we took the girls to Navy Pier, the city’s epicenter of all Fourth of July’s activities, because we’re crazy like that. In our defense, we wanted to cross two things off our Summer Musts list – the giant Ferris Wheel and a skyline tour / boat ride on Lake Michigan.

The girls were over the moon, but Little Miss was especially excited because these were promises we made in the bitter cold of winter, when the lake and Ferris Wheel were the last places we’d want to be.


And suddenly, here we are, in the heart of summer, making good on our promises, and that, in itself, felt amazing too.

4July2       This is the Chicago we love.

That night, the girls miraculously stayed up two hours past their bedtime and sat on our laps on the beach as we watched the fireworks light up the night sky. They did remarkably well for us that day, and I couldn’t remember a more perfect Fourth of July celebration.

But it’s not always about perfection. In fact, we’re often far from it. There are still tantrums and mayhem, but forgiving and forgetting come easier when there’s so much else to look forward to and to be thankful for in the moments between.

Like savoring the sweetness of friendships and ice cream, (re)discovering the magic of fireflies, finding joy in the morning songs of the birds, enjoying the sensation of when our feet first sink into the soft, cool sand, and loving the mixed, intoxicating scent of BBQ, flowers, and rain in the air, reminding us to slow our gait and inhale deeply, deliberately.

Not unlike my two-year-old, who does the same thing: “You hmell (smell) that mommy? It hmellth goooood.”

Oh, yes it does, Pickle. Yes, it does.


* * *


p.s. Whaddya know? This is my 300th post! I probably could have reached it a little sooner in the three and a half years of blogging, but as you can see from the above, I’ve been a little busy, savoring, loving, living.

Hope you’re doing the same, wherever you are, whatever season you’re in.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The girl formally known as Thumper

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At the dinner table a few days ago, Thumper squealed, “I know!” and both My Guy and I looked at her, anticipating a follow-up to her announcement, albeit a little surprised as she had never said that before. Instead, she went back to toying with her fork, as if nothing had happened, as if she didn’t just deliberately yell, I know!

We laughed.

She must have heard that from her sister, who “I know”s everything and who, at the time, was in the shower by herself (oh yes, showering alone is a thing now with a certain four-year-old in this house, especially on swim-class days). Thumper’s exclamation was mere regurgitation. A copycat move.

Then, over the monitor yesterday, I heard her communicating with her sister, “I know! I know! I know!” and she would follow up with something that made sense, like “you be the mommy; me be the baby”. I guess she figured it out after all.

Today, before naptime, while we were discussing which buddies would share the honor with her in the crib, Thumper had her hand next to her face, pointed her index finger to the sky, and exclaimed, “I have idea! Me bring my baby blanket to sleep with me!”

At 25 months, Thumper is slowly getting the hang of intangible concepts. However, I do find it funny that she has mastered “either” and “though”, as in “Me no yike it either!” or “Me tired; me don’t want to go to seep though...” but she still uses “me” in place of “I”.

I don’t correct her though. These little language hiccups will eventually pass, and I will soon have in my hands another little girl who will succinctly argue her way out of wearing an outfit I chose because she just doesn’t do tee-shirts.

For now, I smile at her mispronunciations and marvel at how she, too, will find her way around the language. Just a mere few weeks ago, if you’d asked her her name, she would adamantly say, “Me Pitou!”

What she meant was, I’m Pickle. For some reason, she had attached herself to that nickname even though I had only called her that in jest once. Now I feel obligated to change her nickname on the blog from Thumper to Pickle, as it only seems right.

She had long outgrown her first nickname, given to her when she was an active kicker in my belly, but even though she still thumps and stomps around the house, her insistence on being called “Pitou” certainly trumps her prenatal name, when I had no idea who she would turn out to be.

Pickle, right now, feels right. I struggled with it at first to associate the sourness of pickles with my sweet girl, and then I realized that not all pickles are sour. They can also be sweet. And salty. And spicy! Just like the surprising and delightful banchan that accompanies Korean meals. So many flavors and textures!

Now that I can see. Because she is definitely all those things. Kind and compassionate, feisty and bold, funny and impish, all rolled into one.

Pickle certainly works for her.

Or rather, if she were to say it, Pitou. But someday soon, Pickle will appear flawlessly out of her mouth as she continues to shed her babyhood and leave traces of what she once was behind.

No one would even know that she had once upon a time called herself Pitou, or had an adorable lisp – “me baby peentheth (princess)!” –, or had sweetly and politely said “thank you” when the pediatric cardiologist remarked that she was the best patient after a considerable amount of prodding to clear her heart murmur, saying it was completely normal.

No one, that is, but her daddy and me. How could we ever forget?