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!