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.

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