August 16, 2014

Endings and Beginnings


This corner of the internet has been my home for the last five years. It's been a good five years here at chambanachik. But because of a foolish mistake on my part, every single picture from those years, from those 940 posts that I've written?

Poof. Gone.

There were many tears, including a few as I typed this. There was some frustration with myself. And I briefly wondered if it was a sign that I should quit blogging altogether. But as I mentioned on a new post, I'm not a photographer. I'm a writer.

This blog has been my home. It's been a good one. And it's with both sadness for what I'm leaving, and excitement for what's ahead, that I want everyone to know that this will be my last post at this space.

If you want to keep reading- and goodness, I would love it if you did- then head over to my new blog, The Midwest Press. It's the same me. Same themes, same heart. Just a new space- a big, empty room ready to be filled with words. There is a new post there, waiting for you.

I dearly hope to see you there.

For those of you who'd like my new links:

Email: themidwestpress(at)gmail(dot)com -or- chambanachik(at)gmail(dot)com

August 11, 2014

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry...in Chambana


There are certain things that Chambana families should do to make the most of a Midwest summer, and we try to do as many of them as possible. Curtis Orchard apple cider doughnuts? Definitely. The Urbana Market at the Square? Absolutely. Local swimming pools, parks, and libraries? Check, check, check. But one of my favorites on our summer list? The Taste of Champaign-Urbana.


It's an event we attend every year. Millie goes for the more mild cuisine of macaroni and cheese, but there is something for everyone. Picture a buffet of all your favorite restaurants in town. It's so fun to pick our own meals and sit down at the park bench with a smorgasbord of ten different things. I didn't get to sample the craft beer last year because I was a week away from having Walter, so I'll make up for that this year!


For food, I'll be hitting up The Pop Stop and Ye Olde Doughnut Shop to get an in-between snack, and The Empanadas House food truck for dinner. I'm also eager to visit the Tryptich booth for some local pale ale, and JT Walker's for some orange and blue brew. However, food is just the tip of the iceberg.


There are dozens of activities for the little ones including a magic show, a juggling act, inflatables, a rock climbing wall, a sing along show...and did I mention zucchini car racing? Millie loved the balloon animals last year, and taking a break at the West Side Park playground, as well as the lemon shakeups we shared. Is there anything better than a lemon shakeup on a humid Illinois day? (The answer is no.)

And for the adults, in addition to the craft beer I mentioned, there are booths featuring art and handmade items for sale, a slew of fun bands playing both days, the Second Annual Pie Run, and a raffle for a new car. This isn't a dine and dash evening. This is a two day, take-your-time, relax and hang out event. And we love it.


The 2014 Taste will run Friday from 5-11pm, and Saturday from 11-11pm, so there is plenty of opportunity to stop by, sample some local favorites, shop for crafts, and listen to the great bands on stage. Make sure you use the hashtag #tastecu when posting pictures. (Even I will!) And be on the lookout for a way to text to vote for your favorite food vendor this year.

My friends at the Champaign Park District are generously giving away $25 of Taste of C-U food vendor tickets to one lucky reader! The contest will run until Friday at noon, so you will be able to use your tickets Friday evening and/or Saturday. Enter below, and good luck to everyone!




Disclosure: I was provided Taste of C-U tickets in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are my own.

July 22, 2014

The Middle

 "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." 

School starts soon. In just a few weeks, I will be back in college for what seems like the hundredth time. Three classes this semester, three the next, and I'll earn my associate- if, and it is a very big if- I can pass all my classes, which are mostly math. Still, it's so close that I'm beginning to get excited. I've put a lot of time and energy into chasing it, and now, the end is almost in sight.


And I think that's what I like about it. The beginning, the (long) middle, and the end. Wrapped up with a bow. Or a cap and gown. A handshake, a diploma, and a closed door on the work it took to get there.

**
Millie has been a challenge for me lately. I was tempted to write "a handful", but that is what you say in smalltalk to strangers, not friends. It's not the excess energy of a three year old that makes me laugh and shake my head at the end of the day. It's work. It's tears. It's frustration. It's things that neither of us understand. And it is so hard.


I run out of patience just about every day. And after another early bedtime, I tear up and ask myself why. Why am I not getting the hang of this mother thing yet, after nearly four years of practice? Why is everything I try failing? Why can't I figure this out? Why can't I do better?

And I'm beginning to realize that there will never be a leap across a finish line into the arms of cheering onlookers. This isn't a college degree with a notebook closed and a walk across the stage. It's not a recipe, adjusting spices by a half teaspoon until that first bite tastes perfect. Motherhood doesn't have an ending point. It's a day by day by sometimes grueling day. Some of those days will be heaven sent. Some of them will be a test of how many times I can take a breath and count to ten before I speak.

Maybe labor fooled me into thinking that the hard work would come, but it would be followed by an immediate reward. Instead, it's a million, tiny bits of happiness, interspersed by a million more prayers for help and guidance. I would give anything to earn the badge of "finally got this down", but I know it's unattainable. Because even when they are fifty, I won't be done being their mama. And thank goodness.


I like when I can be done, when something is complete, nice and tidy, and I can dust off my hands. But this is the middle, and it always will be.

Maybe motherhood will be like a good book, one that we go back to re-read certain paragraphs because they are magic. One that we begin to mourn when we've made it to the next chapter, to the final pages. One that collects wet tears on the last few sentences, because we want it to go on and on.

 I've got a lifetime of practice ahead of me, but thankfully, I still have some great paragraphs to re-read.

July 10, 2014

Love Song

“I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn't anymore.” 

There you were. Placed on my chest and, from the look of the pictures, probably crying your first cry, announcing your newness for the hospital room to hear. It's been a year ago now.


But in my memory, there is no sound. Just your face, and the realization that you weren't a girl like I was so sure of before. Here was eight pounds, ten ounces of baby boy...what did I know about boys? Behind the rush of love, the relief that you were in my arms, and the surprise of how quickly it all happened, there was a tiny part of my heart that was truly frightened. I didn't know how to be a mama to you.


I'd been a mama already, of course, but Millie meant I could match patent leather shoes with ruffled dresses, play tea parties, and do all the things I'd done before in my own childhood. All I could see, holding you in my arms, was a boy who would grow into a man. I wondered, already, when you would be too embarrassed to hug me. I thought about you finding your first love, replacing me in an instant. You were so small, with your soft tufts of hair and your sweet, kissable cheeks.

But I kept thinking about you letting go of me.

The first few weeks of your life were difficult. We rushed you to a hospital an hour away one night for a surgery, and I've never felt so helpless. I looked out the hospital window to the sparkles of the city, and wished I could fix everything for you. But, oh, you were brave, sweet boy. And through my tears, I watched your courage and felt my own grow.


Millie was always more independent and sure of things. I was surprised to have someone who seemed to need me more. You always craved me close by. You wanted to be held every moment. It was such a sweet blessing to feel that weight of you nestled up on my chest, breathing dreamy breaths and soothing my soul.

You have changed much in these twelve months; first smiles and first steps, sitting up and wobbling to stand, chatter that sounds like "mama" and "vroom"ing sounds with your cars. You are cheerful always, and your heart is so kind and so good. You will do anything to make me smile. You point to the airplanes in your room every time you wake, because all things are new with you and you want them to be new for me, too. Walter, I have been so proud to watch you grow this first year. I am so glad you will be a wonderful man someday. But for now, I am so glad that you are still my baby.

You spent this year doing many things. One of them was reassuring me.
























I can't write songs, but if I could write one, it would be a love song.

And if I could write one, it would sound like you.


June 18, 2014

The Cherry Pie

 "It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, 
and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, 
and what is done in love is well done." 

There was a list of things- some written, and some only remembered- of all I wished to accomplish before I turned 30. Lofty goals and hopeful suggestions of the girl- the woman, I suppose- I would become when the calendar reads September 18th and my twenties fade out like the porch light at dawn. I don't think I have reached any of them.

But today, I baked a pie.

I'm still six classes away from earning a degree.

But I measured, tapped, and swirled the flour, salt, and baking powder together, a cloud of white dust in a white bowl.

I'm hopeless when it comes to reading music well or learning aperture and shutter speeds, and I'm still very far from the trip to England I've dreamed of since I was little.

But I cut in the chilled shortening and dribbled the ice water into the crumbs, just how my mama advised.

Sky and I have such a long way to go before happiness.

But I looped the apron over my neck and tied it around my waist. I sprinkled the soft flour over the table, then smoothed it around the wooden rolling pin. I slowly poured the cherries tumbling into a patchwork crust, covered them with the other crust, and made a wavy zig-zag around the edge with my thumb and finger. I used a fork to make tiny holes like I was perforating a dark sky with shining, scattered stars. I closed the hot oven door, and opened it fifty minutes later to a yellowed, crumbly, sweet-smelling pie.


I can't cut hair, change a flat tire on the side of the road, start a lawnmower or weed eater without thinking bad words, pick out a pair of glasses I like longer than a week, fold fitted sheets, make an efficient grocery store trip without running through the aisles for something forgotten, or learn how to let go of past hurts.

But I can sew up tears in treasured stuffed animals, and pull the weight of a red wagon and two babies behind me. I can make imperfect birthday cakes, kiss sore knees, and exclaim bright praises of finger paint pictures. I can brush hair into curly pigtails, read library books twenty times over, and find pacifiers that were tossed behind cribs. I can buy a tablecloth and candles for his party and only cry a few tears, and I can assure her that it's her turn next and she'll have presents, too. I can weigh the dreams I have with what is truly important, and let a few of them flutter away, while holding on to the ones I value and will remember when I am eighty five and reliving these precious days.


And I can bake a pie.