Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas is Coming

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, as they are for everyone this time of year! We picked out our Christmas tree last weekend and decorated it Sunday night with Andi and Kyle while listening to Christmas carols and eating pizza. As you can see, the tree is completely crooked. I guess that's what $15.99 gets you at Lowe's. But we love it.

Decorating has been very special this year. I pulled out all my mom's Christmas decorations -- the Swedish ornaments, gorgeous wreaths, Santas, snowmen and white lights -- she loved Christmas!! -- so I see her and feel her everywhere I look.

This time of year is wonderful....and jam packed with parties, festivities, shopping and planning. We've been spending as much time as possible with my Dad and Nancy -- they leave for a 10-day cruise this week (a vacation that was scheduled back in March), then they're back just in time to celebrate Christmas before they take off for their three-year assignment in Beijing. And during Madeline's naps -- time I would normally spend updating my blog and taking care of the "business" of life (which, by the way, includes taking a shower!) -- I've been madly Christmas shopping online, writing Christmas cards and planning the Wiebmer/Vlach extravaganza in Peoria. Sorry to everyone whose emails may have gone unanswered!

So the newest thing with Madeline is that she growls like Maple. They both go nuts when our UPS delivery lady comes to the door. Madeline's guttural sounds aren't exactly directed at people like Maple's are, but they're intimidating enough that strangers look distressed when they hear it in the grocery store.

She is also "pulling up" on everything in sight. Her technique is to launch her little body forward a good distance out from whatever object she's pulling up on. Then she walks her legs in with her behind in the air.

We're just having fun getting ready for Christmas. I hope everyone is staying warm and safe wherever you are!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We're Back!

We returned home day before yesterday from our 11-day trip through Chicago, Geneva and Minocqua. When we pulled out two Fridays ago, Rob and I couldn't help but joke that we must look like the K-9 Unit -- Madeline's Baby Einstein car toy was blinking colorful bright lights like we were a squad car in pursuit, and Maple was sitting in the front seat while I entertained Madeline in the back. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like other drivers were hitting their brake lights and switching lanes to let us pass. Now that's the way to travel!

Jamie and Eric's baby shower was lovely. It's true what they say about pregnant women glowing -- Jamie looked stunning as you can see from the picture. We're all getting very excited about meeting their son in a few short weeks. (Baby Madeline was either napping or visiting friends with her dad in almost every photo.)

We spent the next several days relaxing in Geneva with Rob's family. His parents and Nicki worked so hard to create a nursery for Madeline and to redecorate Rob's high school bedroom to surprise us for our stay! Madeline now has Rob's crib and high chair from when he was a baby, a stroller, a Pack n' Play and her very own bathtub, which makes our visits easy to pack for.

Then we were off to Minocqua to visit with my family. This was an extra special vacation knowing that my dad and Nancy leave for Beijing on December 28. Every morning, the first person to wake would build a crackling fire, which we would feed with wood all day and into the night. Our only activities were to pour through books by the fire, take 200 degree saunas and occasionally stop by Otto's, a classic Wisconsin North Woods bar, for a beer. Madeline was our entertainment, crawling everywhere, digging through purses and chewing on Maple's toys. For some reason, she loves the song, La Cucaracha, squealing and giggling her little head off whenever she hears the slow build up -- "La.....Cuc....Ar.....". And after six months of daily training, Madeline started waving back when we sing, "Hello!"

Nancy organized a delicious Thanksgiving meal, which is remarkable considering she and my dad were house-hunting in China until a day before our trip. A local caterer, who runs the cheese store (of course) prepared a classic dinner, right down to individual homemade Rhubarb pies. We missed Ruby this year, who was put to sleep last month, but Maple took her duties as lodge dog very seriously, keeping Nancy company on the cold walk to start the sauna the way Ruby used to do.

Back in Geneva, we celebrated Thanksgiving Number Two with the Vlachs. Sandie made an incredible meal, which would not be complete without Gram's homemade stuffing. For me, the highlight was watching Madeline discover Grandpa Tom's twitching mustache, which we captured on video. Aunt Nicki was busy translating a 72-page travel brochure from French to English for a fellow named Matthew in Italy. My friend Erica, who is a beautiful photographer, came over Sunday morning to take some family portraits of all the Vlachs. Craig, her husband, was her assistant, which mostly meant making faces at Madeline behind the camera and taming Maple.

We arrived back in Peoria just in time to celebrate Buffy's surprise birthday party, which her wonderful husband, Dan, planned for her. It was a lovely vacation...and now we're happy to be home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving (a little early...)

Well, our camera battery ran out as we were running out the door for our first black tie event, but at least we got one shot to document this spit-up-and-applesauce-free moment. Rob looked like James Bond in his tuxedo. I dressed up a simple dress that I already owned with a beaded belt and my grandmother's rhinestone clutch (a gift to her from their French exchange student when my dad was in high school!). Oh, and I wore my Stuart Weitzman shoes that I bought on clearance for $40! The event was in recognition of Peoria's new Children's Hospital, a $234 million project that is currently under construction by OSF, the same hospital where I delivered Madeline.

Tomorrow, we'll take off for a 10-day trip that kicks off Thanksgiving. We'll start in Chicago, where I'm co-hosting a baby shower with Erin and Tara for our good friends, Jamie and Eric. Then we'll spend some time with Rob's family in Geneva before we drive up to Minocqua, WI to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. We'll get to visit with my sister, Mollie, who's flying in from Denver, and hear all about my dad and Nancy's house-hunting trip in Beijing! Then back down to Geneva to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Vlachs. Lucky Maple's coming along for the ride.

So it will be about a week-and-a-half before I post another blog...but hopefully before now and then, I'll get to see some of you in person! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday Thoughts on Parenting

I love the fall. It seems like we're just turning that corner between autumn and winter...most of the colorful leaves from the giant Maple tree in our front yard have fallen onto the lawn, which is beautiful too. Madeline sure had a good time stuffing fistfuls into her mouth yesterday. As the weather goes from cool to cold, it's strange to watch our neighbors installing an in-ground swimming pool in their backyard (while we're bundling up and taking Madeline's new snow suit for a test drive, a gift from her great grandmother, Marion).

Last night, Buffy and I went to dinner at Jonah's, an elegant seafood restaurant on the river. We realized that for all the time we spend together, we're always juggling babies. So we treated ourselves to a grown-up night out while our wonderful husbands put the girls to bed. Last Friday, Buffy and Dan had us over to their house for dinner with another couple. We packed Madeline up and told her she was going to her first sleep over. She was thrilled! So excited, in fact, that she never went to sleep -- shrieking and wailing every time we left her in the Pack 'n Play. But the moment she rejoined the dinner party, she giggled and flirted, acting wide awake as the hours rolled by. She finally drifted off at almost 11pm when we got home.

It's hard to know, as a new parent, how to handle these tough situations. Should I have let her scream her brains out (otherwise known as the "cry-it-out method," a phrase that makes the softie in me cringe) until she finally fell asleep, only to wake her an hour later to come home? On a daily basis, Rob and I make the best decisions we know how, but it's hard not to let doubt creep in from time to time. Am I encouraging a bad habit when I put the pacifier in her mouth at 2am? And I realize that these are probably some of the easiest decisions Rob and I will make in Madeline's adolescent life. Being a parent is a big job! Sometimes the awesome power and responsibility of it hits me. And that's when I go to my giant shelf of books -- Your Baby Week by Week; What to Expect the First Year; Loving Without Spoiling; Babyproofing your Marriage; Dr. Spock's Parenting Book; Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters...I've only scratched the surface of the titles on our shelves. More are en route right now from

I wasn't surprised to learn in another book (of course) called Motherless Mothers, that new moms who have lost their own mothers....well, they read. A lot. It's something that gives me peace and confidence. Especially when I read those books and I think to myself, "Whatever, Dr. Whoever-You-Are." That's the best feeling! Because no one knows Madeline like Rob and me. And as long as I give her all the love I have to give, who really truly cares if she needs a quick pacifier re-up at 2am? We just keep figuring it out as we go along.

So other big news in our world: It's official -- Madeline's crawling. And Rob and I are going to our first black tie event this weekend. We'll take lots of blog pictures, of course!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Madeline's First Halloween

We had so much fun last night stuffing Madeline into her goldfish costume and parading her around the neighborhood! Maple was dressed up in an Elmo costume that I salvaged from Mollie's Goodwill donation pile one year. A little three-year-old spider came to the door for candy and said to his mom, "I didn't know Elmo was a dog!"

So after a family Halloween photo shoot on the front porch with the Jack-o-lanterns that Rob and I carved, we took Madeline to a couple of neighbors' houses (I ate her candy as we walked) and stopped by to say hi to Carrie and Garrott's Viszla, Daisy, who was dressed up as a bumblebee. Then later on in the evening, Buffy and Ellie (dressed as an adorable ladybug) stopped by to say hello, and Andi came over after class to help pass out candy and have dinner. It was the perfect first Halloween!

Madeline continues to practice her crawling. She isn't there yet, but she sure is giving it everything she's got. She even grunts from the effort. That's my girl. And now with her sharp little lone tooth, it's like living with a beaver. This morning, I gently pried her mouth off of the wood high chair she was whittling; she has scratched the plastic off of both ends of the television clicker (one of her favorite "toys"). Rob says she has Restless Leg Syndrome because seemingly in her sleep, she'll raise both her legs in her crib and bring them down with a big thud that we can actually feel from the living room couch.

And finally, huge news on the family front! My dad and Nancy are thrilled to be moving to Beijing with Caterpillar, effective January 1. We've all been waiting for weeks to find out whether they would be transferred to China, India or Russia. So they're in the midst of making all the decisions and preparations that go along with that enormous transition. I don't think the reality has hit quite yet just how much we will miss them...mostly because we are all so happy for them. And because we're already planning our first visit!

Finally, I had to post this picture of the first official "Pink Shirt Day" in Rob's work group of almost all men, a hallmark that started in part because of the teasing Rob takes from his boss for his pink shirts and ties!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Introducing Madeline's First Tooth!

Well, it has been a big week for Madeline. She got her first tooth, started genuine attempts at crawling, and she "pulled up" to look through her bin of books -- her little leg muscles were quivering from the effort. Rob also gave her a lime to can see how much she liked it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Very Busy Three Weeks

The last three weeks have flown by! We went to another Illini game with my dearest college friends and their new babies, visited with Rob's family, and spent a special weekend with my grandparents. Then to top it all off, Madeline and I flew to Denver to visit Mollie for a week! Here are some of the highlights:

Go Illinois!

Cassidy, Ella, Madeline and Baby Haru must have been good luck charms because Illinois beat the University of Wisconsin in another big upset. It was such a fun reunion with Erin, Tara, Jamie and all the husbands (who have a great time together too). Before we all headed back to Peoria for the night, we met up with a group of our Delta Gamma sorority sisters at Amy Ludwig's family tailgate (and met all the new DG babies).

The Vlachs Visit

Rob's mom, dad, sister and grandma drove down and spent that Sunday with us for a relaxed afternoon. Marion and Tom tried Indian food for the first time and liked it!

Meg's Grandparents
Visit from Arkansas
We had a very special visit with my grandparents, who drove all the way up from Arkansas. We went for several walks along Grand View Drive, watched the Illini play the University of Iowa (can't win 'em all) and supported Andrea by visiting her at Bradley University's all-night Dance Marathon. It's hard to describe how much the time I spend with my grandparents means to me.

Denver, Here We Come!
Madeline and I had a fantastic time visiting Mollie in Colorado for a whole week. Mollie was such a gracious hostess, and her boyfriend, Kenny, was so kind to allow us to take over his single apartment, while he camped out with Mollie's best friends and roommates, Julie and Allison. We spent the weekend in Estes Park, a charming little town nestled in the mountains. We cozied up by the fire and watched the snow fall outside the window of our condo, which was built alongside a small river.

Madeline did so well on the first plane ride of her life! A mechanical problem caused us to miss our connection at O'Hare on the way home, and despite missing both her naps and waiting around in the airport for four extra hours, she was still cheerful, entertaining travelers and flight attendants (though I did have to explain several times that her "teradactyl" shriek is actually a happy sound).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Madeline's First Illini Game

Madeline watched an Illini victory over Penn State at her first University of Illinois football game this weekend! We went with Jo, Jason, Erica, Craig, Graig and his lovely new wife, Caitlin (who both went to Penn State). It was a very exciting upset. Madeline, who was decked out in her Illini gear, blended into the sea of orange and actually cheered with the crowd! Then (it's hard to believe this is possible), she actually fell asleep on Rob's shoulder during the fourth quarter, despite the roaring crowd and touchdown fireworks.

So, if Madeline decides to attend the University of Illinois in another 18 years (no pressure or anything), she will be a fourth generation Illini. She already has a U of I car seat and more orange-and-blue than her parents (not to mention that her mom and dad met there their senior year!). So as you can see the "gentle" nudging has begun at only six months.

And the best part is, we're going back again next weekend for Illinois v. Wisconsin with my Delta Gamma sorority sisters (Erin, Jamie and Tara) and their growing families! We can't wait to meet little Cassidy and Ella and see Jamie's pregnant bump!

Go Illini!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yam I Am

So far, Madeline has tasted: peas (disgusting!); applesauce (she shudders with every bite, but it's better than the pea-dry-heave), prunes (we're getting warmer), bananas (heck yeah! This is the good stuff), and finally yams (documented to the right).

"Starting solids" sounds deceivingly tidy. While it is hilarious and even exciting to see Madeline's expressions as she tries different foods for the first time, it is also incredibly messy! It's hard to know how much food actually goes down the hatch once she's had her way. Her favorite game is to grab the loaded end of the spoon with her fist...then rub her eyes and/or drag the spoon itself across the back of her head. She looks like a little raccoon peering out from behind an orange or brown mask -- it clumps in her eyelashes, mats in her hair (the little she has), and coats the insides of her ears. This is all before the dog comes and licks her little fingers clean.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Take You...

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary! It has gone by so quickly... Every day I count my lucky stars that I get to share my life with my best friend. I love that Rob has never once removed his wedding ring since the moment I put it on him, and that he carries the wedding vows we wrote, ripped out of our wedding program, in his wallet:

I take you, Rob, to be my husband. You're my best friend, my love and a blessing in my life. I promise to be true to you; to honor and respect you; to listen to you and to be patient with you; to take care of you in good times and in bad; and to believe in you the way you believe in me. I want to make you laugh often, and I want to live our lives as an adventure, with you by my side as long as I live.

This morning, Rob got up early with Madeline and made us a big breakfast. Then the three of us met for lunch at a fun Vietnamese restaurant, and tonight, after the little girl goes to sleep we'll celebrate with sushi and a movie at home. Because we had our romantic Starved Rock weekend earlier this month, a relaxed night in sounds perfect. So, the traditional fourth anniversary gift is flowers, specifically geraniums (hmmm), and the modern gift is an appliance (an appliance?). Gosh, every girl's dream come true....

Since I'm a little behind, here's a quick update: Last weekend, Rob went fly fishing for the first time with his buddies, Dan and Garrett. He absolutely loved the peaceful sport, calling it "gentleman's fishing." Madeline also met my good friend and her husband, Julie and Rob, at Apple Blossom Farm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Half Birthday to You!

Yesterday was Madeline's first half birthday! We celebrated over lunch -- Ning came over with birthday cookies and Rob came home to join in the fun. We sang the half-birthday song ("Happy half-birthday to you, happy half-birthday to you..."), and Madeline had her first bite of pure, shock-to-your-system sugar (good thing our pediatrician doesn't read my blog). After Madeline finished licking all the frosting off her cookie, she dropped it on the ground to share with her big sister, Maple (no wonder the dog and the baby get along so well).

In addition to fructose, Madeline tasted peas this week. Her expression of distaste for cereal graduated to a dry heave for mashed peas, combined with a look that said, "How DARE you!" I smelled the olive green paste and thought it was gross too (which Rob took advantage of, putting a pea ban into effect for all of us). Thankfully, we have the whole thing on video.

So after peas and cereal (which dries into concrete, by the way), there's only one thing to do: dunk Madeline into her bath. She has always loved bath time, but never more than this morning. It finally dawned on me that at six months, she probably doesn't need the infant hammock anymore that fits into her tub. So with the newfound ability to sit up and move freely, Madeline played for 30 minutes, gleefully splashing to her heart's content (and not quite understanding that she was responsible for the tidal waves that kept hitting her in the face).

On a more serious note, a college girlfriend's three-month-old daughter, Elena, is undergoing repeated surgeries on her intestines to help correct her inability to gain weight. It's a serious condition, and heartbreaking to hear Lily's account of the pain her baby is enduring. We're pulling for the new family. It is a reminder that we must be grateful for the seemingly insignificant things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Starved Rock, Here We Come!

This weekend, Rob and I rented a cabin at Starved Rock for two nights and took our first weekend away from Miss Madeline. The Vlach family swooped in to help; Rob's parents took great care of Madeline and Rob's sister, Nicki, came to Peoria to watch Maple.

So I admit -- I got a little teary-eyed saying good-bye. Madeline and I are serious buds, after all -- we hang out every single day! But at the same time, Rob and I have been looking forward to this special time away and it was fabulous! FABULOUS! The park and trails are beautiful....but to tell you the truth, mostly we just sat around reading (Harry Potter!) and sipping wine. We took a vacation from all responsibility; in fact, we even took a vacation from taking pictures!

Thankfully, Grammy and Grandpa had the camera out! Madeline watched the Bears game in her very own hat, just like Grandpa Tom, who wouldn't dream of watching his team without wearing his Bears cap. When we came to pick up Madeline, she was wearing a Cub's uniform like she was in the starting line up!

In other exciting news, Madeline is now eating rice cereal (well, at least that's exciting to me!). At first, she would grab the spoon out of our hands, shove it in her mouth like she hadn't eaten in years, and then wrinkle her nose and spit out the mushy contents in disgust...before starting the whole process over like a glutton for punishment. Now, only a few days later, she seems to actually enjoy the taste! Oh honey....if you like this flavorless mush, just wait till you get to the good stuff! Filet mignon, Wrigley Field hot dogs, cheesecake...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mollie Visits From Denver!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day! We were thrilled to have my sister, Mollie, visit from Denver. My two sisters and I have SO MUCH FUN every time we get together. Somehow, we always revert back at least a decade-and-a-half in maturity. For example, Miss Mollie and I were wildly daring each other to do silly and embarrassing things in Target ("I dare you to wear this hair band on your neck....I dare you to do a cartwheel...I dare you to walk around the store like this..."). Sure enough, it wasn't long before a Target employee reprimanded Mollie at the tail end of our kickball game back in Lawn and Garden! And as the older sister, did I act my age and take responsibility too? Not quite. I listened to her explain that no, she's not going to buy the ball as I pretended to be engrossed in an Illinois tailgating display five feet away, trying to keep my shoulders from shaking too much with laughter.

On a more mature note, we had a family prayer service for my mom at Springdale Cemetery, where we buried her. Springdale is 150 years old and stretches over 230 acres of rolling hills and valleys; my mom's spot overlooks the Illinois River under a giant Oak. Later that afternoon, we did what any good daughter would do to remember our mom....we got pedicures and went shopping!

Friday, August 31, 2007

All in a Day's Work

Last night, I had my hair cut and highlighted. Even when I was fresh out of college, just making ends meet on my starting salary with an $800-a-month rent in downtown Chicago, I have always done this one special thing for myself. I look forward to pampering myself, and for only $90, I leave the salon feeling like a million bucks.

Only last night, the first words out of my stylist's mouth were, "So you're not working anymore?" followed by a series of other harmless, but irritating comments about the 1950's. I guess I've been preparing myself for this for awhile. I smiled at him and responded pleasantly, while quietly thinking, "Hey bud, if you think I'm not working, I'd love for you to give this a try." And oh, by the way, more female doctors, lawyers and professionals are choosing to stay home now than in the last decade. It's a generational thing.

I'm transitioning into a brand new chapter of my life...wonderful and fulfilling, but a transition, no less. I've traded in my tweed skirts, suits and three-inch heels for clothes that can I run through the washing machine several times a week (yesterday, my first wardrobe change was before 10am), and I've exchanged my button down tops for shirts I can yank up when Madeline's hungry. I'm growing my Peoria network (i.e. making new friends) to include women who are home during the day, using tactics that make me feel like I'm dating again. My new salary is watching Madeline's personality unfold and feeling my husband's deep gratitude. My annual review will be looking back when Madeline turns one and appreciating every minute. My raises and promotions will come from within.

So admittedly, part of this transition for me involves taking pride and feeling confident in Rob and my decision, even if it's a choice that not everyone makes. It means not being sensitive to silly comments from well-meaning people (we'll give them the benefit of the doubt) who have never been faced with the same decision. And it definitely means respecting each of the choices we make for our families -- be that to work inside or outside our homes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Breast Cancer 3-Day

Last weekend, dear friends of mine, Johanna and Molly, walked 60 miles in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, which benefits Susan G. Komen by funding breast cancer research and community outreach. They walked for my mom. I am so blessed to have such amazing women in my life.

Here is what Jo said in an email when they were all done:
The 3-Day was AMAZING. You absolutely have to do it. All of your sister’s should; you should do it together. Molly and I met these sisters who were walking together for their mom. Everyone there was amazing. I could go on for hours about it. It was so inspirational. It was very emotional, too. But so awesome. The stories of the courage, and the fighters, and the mourners. It. Was. Amazing! I don’t want to tell you too much, because you almost just have to see for yourself. But it was so fun. It was also very hot, and very hard. But we had trained well, and we walked every single stinking mile!! The closing ceremonies were incredible. Erica and her mom came and when I saw them I went crazy. The combination of little sleep, my emotions on overdrive, and the adrenalin through my body made that surprise so great. It was a lifetime experience.

Every walker signed a "remembrance" tent for those who have passed away to breast cancer. Molly and Jo wrote my mom's name.

Thank you, Molly and Jo...for remembering and for being such terrific friends.

You Want Me To Put That Where?

Madeline is sitting up by herself! She's been working at it for the last few weeks. And she's also rolling over! Watching her squirm and build momentum until that pivotal moment when her little legs and body finally hurtle over is like watching a fish flop around on my grandpa's dock. The best part is that she completely surprises herself every time she succeeds and lands on her tummy.

She woke up this morning with a cold. If anyone else made the same dry cough, I would think they were probably faking -- it's so little and delicate. The poor thing has snot that drips and puddles above her top lip until I grab the nearest thing to stop it from sliding into her mouth. Sorry - I know that was gross. Okay, and let's talk about checking for fevers, which thankfully, she does not have. The truest way to take a baby's temperature is rectally. It was initially horrifying, but now we just get it done and Madeline keeps playing with her stuffed turtle or her toes totally unaware of what is happening to her. All I can say is "Sorry, Madeline. The doctor said I had to."

We are fortunate to live only five minutes from Caterpillar's headquarters, where Rob works. He comes home for lunch with his girls almost every day! It is so special for me to see how much he loves Madeline. He's an amazing dad!