Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving came and went and now it's Christmas! Boy, does time fly.

Our Thanksgiving plans to visit my grandma, dad and Nancy in Arkansas changed abruptly when Madeline got a nasty flu bug. We had no choice but to cancel our travel, and though we were disappointed, we ended up having a wonderfully relaxing four days at home, preparing our first-ever Thanksgiving turkey (thank goodness Conan had the Butterball lady on), picking out our Christmas tree, taking long walks and building fires every night. Our Louisiana-born neighbor, Stader, even adopted us one night, inviting us to have dinner with his family.

We've been busy the last several weeks! Going to Chuck E. Cheese and indoor playgrounds on rainy days, playing outside on the sunny ones, preparing for Christmas, baking cookies as gifts, and getting Madeline's sleep back on track after being sick (20 minute naps are no good for her or for me at seven months pregnant and working 12 hour days...).

Rob and I hired a babysitter and went to his work holiday party at the Loew's Vanderbilt Hotel, where John McCain stayed during the Nashville presidential debates. There was an elegant cocktail reception, four-course dinner and dancing to a fabulous live band. I broke out my sequin sweater, highest heels (oh no, I'm not giving them up yet) and red nail polish -- what a fun date night! We also watched three Tennesse Titans valet their (very) fancy cars and walk through the hotel lobby wearing Gucci scarves, carrying Louis Vuitton luggage and sporting the kind of team coats and gear you see on high school boys and super fans. But the best part of the night was the new friends we made -- two fun, young couples! In fact, we've already spent time with both couples in only a week's time (you know you're in the Bible Belt when your first double date isn't dinner, but attending church together).

On Thursday, we officially kicked off Christmas in Nashville. When I woke up in the morning, I could hear the soft thumps of Madeline's footsteps downstairs....strange, considering Rob was at work. Bewildered, I went downstairs and smelled fresh coffee. Rob and Madeline were both in their PJs -- Rob had taken a surprise day off to celebrate our little Vlach Christmas! It was a perfect day (besides a flat tire) -- we built a fire, wrapped presents, listened to carols, made a wonderful dinner (starting with shrimp cocktail, a Christmas tradition of my moms!), then opened stockings and exchanged our gifts to each other. We talked about all the things that we're thankful for, and our goals for 2009.

Yesterday, the Christmas road show began. We started our two-week journey with an overnight visit in Louisville with my dear college friend, Jamie, and her adorable son and husband, Kainoa and Eric. (Jamie just started a fabulous new blog -- check it out!). After the babies were in bed, Jamie and I went to a girls-only Christmas party with all her friends.

The next morning, we took off for Geneva to start the next leg of our journey with Rob's family. We left a 72 degree Nashville and pulled into Chicago at a blustering -4. My sister, Mollie, flies in from Denver on Christmas Eve to celebrate with the Vlachs, and then Christmas Day, we'll drive the six hours to Minocqua, WI, for four relaxing days of cabin life with my family, as well as my sisters' boyfriends, Kenny and Kyle.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! We are thinking of you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mollie and Matt visit Nashville!

We had so much fun with my sister, Mollie, who was in town from Denver, and Matt, our best man, who was visiting from Chicago last weekend! There's just nothing like catching up in person and unwinding at the same time -- it felt great. Matt was in Chattanooga for business, so he added a day onto his trip and arrived at our place on Friday afternoon. We made homemade pizzas and laughed a lot while Madeline slowly fell in love -- she said his name for three days after he left! Much later that night, I picked Mollie up from the airport and then the four of us hung out! The next morning, we went out to Dotson's, the diner I mentioned in an earlier post (that's been visited by every country music star) for breakfast, and then had to say good-bye to Matt so he could catch his flight.

Mollie, Rob and I had so much fun as the weekend went on. We had a fabulous sushi dinner at the place where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are often spotted, then met our babysitter back at the house and went to see the new James Bond movie. My sisters' and I just love James Bond...another thing my mom passed along! The newest movie always seems to come out around Thanksgiving or Christmas, so we would always wait anxiously for weeks for opening weekend! I would drive home from college or Chicago so the four of us -- my mom, Mollie, Andi and I -- could go together! The next day, Mollie and I went window shopping (good for the soul) and flipped through books in Borders for hours while Rob and Madeline watched "foo-baww" at home. Naomi Judd (mother to Ashley and Wynona) walked up to me and asked if I worked there. I wish I had been quicker on my feet and answered yes so I could talk to her some more. I sent Mollie over to double check while Naomi perused the inspirational book section, and she confirmed my second star siting in six weeks.

Later that night we built a roaring fire with our new wood delivery and fell asleep to a Blockbuster rental. Mollie left at 4:30am the next morning to catch her flight back to Denver. It was so fun to watch her and Madeline play and giggle -- we were so sorry to see her go!

This week, we've enjoyed looking at the results of the professional photographs we had taken in our Peoria house the day before we moved. Two short months since our move to Nashville and our life in Peoria already feels so far away. So I never could have imagined how significant it would be to look at pictures of the three of us in the home where we brought home Madeline and became a family. The photographer, Nellie, is a friend -- she just blew us away with her beautiful candid style. Take a look if you have a sec -- follow the link to "Proofing" in the left-hand navigation and then type "vlach" for password.

We've been enjoying the fall and being outdoors with beautiful hikes, smores around the firepit and piles of freshly raked leaves that are ready to be jumped in! This will be a nice quiet weekend. We're looking forward to building another fire and brainstorming our Christmas gift list. I may even start drafting the annual Vlach Christmas letter!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sheryl and Me

Day before yesterday, we went to Sonic for lunch with our neighbors and then to a great playground just three minutes from our house. Madeline set her sights on an adorable little boy and beelined from the slide, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him tight like he was her great lost love. As I quickly followed her to make sure she didn't knock him over in her exuberance, I looked at the cute kid's mom. Then I looked again. It was Sheryl.

Sheryl Crow.

She was lovely -- all smiles, dressed in jeans, a stylish t-shirt and construction boots with funky bracelets, wearing a curly ponytail without a stitch of make-up. Just like any mom of a toddler, she was out playing with her 18-month old adopted son, Wyatt, and an equally friendly young woman, who I assumed was her nanny. We shared some typical mommy talk -- "How old is he? How old is she? What's his/her name? He/She's so cute/pretty! Great playground, huh? Have a great day"... And then as I wandered off to give her privacy and act cool (yea, I know who you are but I see rockstars every day....), I heard her take a phone call on her Blackberry and discuss whether or not to book Toronto and Chicago.

So Madeline, if you're reading this a decade or two from now and you have no idea who Sheryl Crow is, she's pretty cool. She's won seven Grammy's and has more multi-platinum albums than I could count quickly in her bio. My affection for her music started in high school when my mom, your grandma, loved to listen to her albums -- rocking out to "All I want to do is have some fun" at the top of her lungs in the car with all the windows down.

We had a fun Halloween, despite a rocky start. Early last Friday morning, Madeline reached up on her toes, fingers stretched, and tipped her cooling bowl of boiling oatmeal from the kitchen counter right down the front of her. Blisters formed within seconds; she was in a lot of pain. Because I didn't know where the emergency room was yet, a neighbor across the street led me in his car, and my other neighbor/friend, Amy (the ER nurse) met us there and stayed with us. Madeline was so tough! She had first and second degree burns on her chest and under her chin, but after a dose of Tylenol with Codeine, she left the ER like it was any other morning, chanting "Play Ou-side" the entire drive home. After a week, she still has a quarter-size burn left on her chest and little scabs on her chin that look like she took a spill chasing a ball or something. It doesn't seem to bother her a bit, and she sits patiently while Rob and I change her bandage twice a day.

Halloween night, Madeline made her debut as a bumblebee. She collected candy at one house, then happily "helped" us pass out candy at our house by eating it hand-over-fist. Rob finally started hiding the bowl in the bushes between rounds of trick-or-treaters -- we'd see a fluff of bent-over toole sifting around between our landscaping, saying "Pop? Pop? Pop?" on repeat (lollypop). Our neighbor Stader (born and raised in New Orleans), passed out margaritas to the parents on our cul-de-sac as the kids made the rounds, making a special stop at our house to give me pickles and ice-cream. We ended the night by walking four doors down to a fun Halloween party.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Andi and Kyle Visit

Last weekend, Andi, Kyle and his dog, Charlie, drove down to Nashville for a super-fun weekend! On Saturday, Rob and Kyle -- both Sigma Chi's -- tailgated at Vanderbilt's Homecoming, where Kyle went to school. Meanwhile, Andi and I had lots of girl talk and nail painting at home while Madeline napped; then we all met up at the Franklin Pumpkin Festival. After Madeline's bathtime (and lots of jumping on the air mattress we still haven't deflated since Rob's family visited), we hired a babysitter and went out for sushi. We ended a wonderful weekend the next morning with a meal that is on record as one of my favorites -- true Southern food at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant minutes from our house that's been visited by celebrities, including all of the Judds, Martha Stewart and Vince Gill.

That afternoon, after Andi and Kyle had to leave, Rob, Madeline and I carved pumpkins and baked the seeds (which of course we nibbled and then threw away because they were gross, just like every year).

Madeline's been busy. Earlier this week, she had success on the "Bee - Grrrrr - Paw - Dy" (Translation: Big Girl Potty). I won't elaborate on the actual success, but we jumped and cheered like we just won a trip to Disney World. She's becoming a true toddler: she loves to paint and color and she's repeating everything (I'm realizing how often Rob and I say "Ok-kay" and "I see"). Lately her baby doll likes to do everything Madeline does -- she washes her hands, sits on the potty, drinks milk and eats in the high chair. Madeline's also becoming opinionated about clothes -- she's either stripped down to a diaper (or less!), or she's layering yesterday's spagetti-covered clothes, PJs and random dirty socks (which she pulls out of the hamper) over her cute little outfits.

Today we went to a Halloween party hosted by the Mom's Club I joined here. The constant motion of 20 miniature skunks, ladybugs and turtles is a literal and figurative zoo. The women I'm meeting are fabulous! I'm happy that we're able to attend events now that Madeline's only taking one nap instead of two.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Vlachs Take Nashville

We had a wonderful visit with Rob's parents, grandma and sister this weekend in Nashville! On Friday, we had fun showing them our house and neighborhood. Then we went to the charming downtown Franklin (five minutes away) to window shop and had dinner at Puckett's, a "Meat-and-Three" restaurant (a Southern concept where Mac-n-Cheese counts as a vegetable -- heaven!) -- we were lucky enough to listen to the band warm up. That night we had a belated birthday party for Nicki and Tom, and sat around the fire pit making smores.

On Saturday, we drove to downtown Nashville and went inside the Cat Financial office where Rob works, then had lunch at the well-known Jack's Bar-B-Que in Nashville's "district." That night we had a pizza party at home -- Rob rolled the dough and everyone made their own pie. Sunday was a working day -- with everyone pitching in, we were able to clear most of our garage of boxes (quite an undertaking since it was filled with our entire Peoria basement and attic!). Thank you so much for traveling all that way to see us!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Illinois Homecoming

We had a great time this weekend at the University of Illinois Homecoming game with my girlfriends, Erin, Jamie and Tara and their families. Going back to campus is one of my favorite fall traditions, and it just wouldn't be the same if I wasn't doing it with such incredible friends. And no one more than my best friend, Rob -- we actually met Homecoming 1999! We all tailgated, walked campus and visited the Delta Gamma house and the guys' fraternities. There were lots of logistics and naps with four babies in tow, but we kept things laid back and had a great time!

Yesterday, Madeline and I went to the Nashville Zoo with my neighbor Amy, an emergency room nurse who's becoming a friend, and her three children, Maggie, Matthew and Caroline. I loved seeing the animals just as much as the kids! There's something magical about driving 20 minutes from your suburban driveway and seeing elephants, monkeys and giraffes. But the absolute highlight was an open-air room that is covered (every square inch) with thick padding. Madeline was sweaty and flushed, jumping off benches and crashing into other happy kids.

I'm also so proud of my sister Andrea, who ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday! She pushed through the hard parts in 90 degree weather with her best friend from the University of Iowa, Katie. Their entourage of supporters followed them around the course, cheering them on. We can't wait to run a marathon together one day (Mollie, fair warning: you may get dragged into this too).

We're excited for Rob's family to visit this weekend. They arrive the day after tomorrow!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're Here!

We're here in Nashville and and we love it!

Two weeks feels like two months -- we've made fast friends and live on an incredibly social cul-de-sac littered with children and friendly dogs that Madeline and Maple follow around happily. Rob loves his new job, and my social calendar already feels so full that some days, I just don't have time to open boxes.

We are enjoying the South. I guess every place has a personality just like people, and Nashville feels warm and inviting. Since we arrived, meals and homemade pound cakes (yes, plural) keep appearing at our door, and living here seems easy -- we've already found babysitters, dog sitters, doctors, restaurant and grocery stores. Rob and I kept asking ourselves if we'd landed in Pleasantville. Everyone here in Middle Tennessee goes by their full name -- two of our neighbors are also named Rob, but they both go by Robert. We hear new names too -- there's a Grayson, a Stader, a Wils and a Drake...all on our street. I can tell we're near the Bible Belt -- the other day I passed a yard sign that screamed "Jesus Loves You!" before I realized it was advertising a window and siding company.

The move itself went as smoothly as we could hope for. We had a motley crew of packers and movers -- tatooed and missing teeth -- but they turned out to be sweet guys, cuddling with Maple, showing us pictures of their kids and belting country music ballads while they packed. Of course even the best move has its curve balls. On our last day in Peoria, I woke up and noticed that my legs were green. Thinking it was related somehow to my pregnancy and circulation, I called my doctor, who promptly told me to go to the emergency room. Everytime I mentioned the color of my legs, I would get the same alarmed expression, and before I knew it, I was carted off in a wheel chair, dressed in a hospital gown and hooked up to sensors. Long story short, my brand new dark wash blue jeans had dyed my legs (the doctor swiped my leg with an alcohol swap, which promptly turned blue, and suddenly it was comedy hour behind our curtain) -- a much less dangerous diagnosis than cyanosis, which often ends in amputation. Besides that adventure, the heartbreaking good-byes (I thought I might die listening to Madeline's forlorn calls for "Papa") and the flu bug Rob got on move in day (thank you to our friends Paige, Jeff and Jackson who came to our rescue), everything went quickly and drama-free.

We're grinding through unpacking the boxes. If unpacking were some sort of tv game show where you have to locate items in five minutes or less, I think I'd do okay. Parts of the process are really exciting -- what isn't fun about putting together a new home? -- but other parts (the ones that require organization, like finally tackling a drawer full of lone socks that may or may not have a match) are beyond boring to me. Feels like being banished to arrange and rearrange the Tupperware drawer.

So don't be shy -- come visit! Rob's family comes next weekend and Andrea and Kyle arrive the weekend after! Tomorrow, we'll drive to Champaign for our annual Illinois football game with my best college girlfriends and their families. We can't wait!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy Days

It has been raining for days on end. Our front yard looks like a pond, and for the first time in the four years we've lived here, we have water in our basement.

In fact last night, while hanging out and eating pizza at our friends' house -- Aaron, Janelle and their adorable children, Quinton and Sloan -- flash flood warnings started blaring out of the TV. There was a roar of hard rain outside, and within minutes, the flow of water into their basement was fast and constant. Rob and Aaron were building levees with bagged sand, running a shop vac for hours, and trying to control the inevitable seepage into our friends' carpet with mounds of towels. Somehow, we still managed to have a blast -- finding reasons to laugh, watching the kids run around long after their bedtime, and taking time to inhale Janelle's homemade pumpkin cake in between urgent runs for "more towels!!!"

We've been trying to stay busy, but we all have cabin fever. Poor Maple's taking the brunt of our boredom. As I write, Rob has tied Madeline's hippo pull-toy onto her collar as Madeline chases behind, squealing with laughter. The poor dog was also forced to play the bongos this morning. Madeline's been experimenting with markers (coloring on herself), running in circles (a game that can last for 20 minutes at a time), playing hide-and-go-seek (Where's Madeline? Is she under the rug?), and watching the occasional Baby Einstein when I need a break.

Yesterday was a special treat. Ning and I went for manicures and pedicures, then stopped in a children's clothing store where Ning picked out three colorful outfits for Madeline -- polka-dotted and stripped, complete with matching hair bows. We met my dad, Rob and Madeline for a fun lunch at a mexican restaurant. The best part was that we could walk to each under a covered roof while the rain poured. And it's still raining..... Hope everyone's staying dry!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rob's Work Send-Off

Today, Rob's work group hosted him to a good-bye lunch to Old Chicago Pizza. Madeline and I were lucky enough to be able to come and listen to all the wonderful things Rob's supervisor said about him to a group of about 15, commenting on his infectious positive attitude and his willingness to do whatever needs to be done. The group signed a funny card and gave us a generous Lowe's gift certificate! It made me feel so proud to see how many co-workers came out to celebrate Rob and see him off. I know he'll impress just as many people in his next role in Nashville! As a thank you, I'm sending Rob into work on Monday with decorated cookies (have you ever noticed that people in an office always seem to demolish a cake or a box of sweets before 8am?).

Congrats on a job well done, Rob! Thanks for being such a great husband and dad, and for taking such great care of your family by working so hard every day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Days and Counting...

Great news -- our house in Peoria has officially sold! No one is happier than me. Showing a house with a toddler and a dog is a lot of work, as anyone who has shown a house and/or has a toddler knows. I'm not proud -- I ran dirty dishes out to the garage more than once, hid dirty underwear in my writing stationery drawer and ordered in dinners just to keep the kitchen clean. It's a bit like you don't live in your own home: wiping down the microwave after every use, taking down photos of family and friends, and hiding all of Madeline's toys in the basement (then carrying the same five to and from their hiding spot in a Chili's takeout bag several times a day).

Just as soon as I would have one room perfectly neat and had started on the next, Madeline would have emptied the media cabinet, mashed her raisins into the couch, and dumped Maple's dog food all over the kitchen. All that in about 65 seconds. The time it takes me to perfectly fold my kitchen towels so they don't look like I just finished wiping up our spaghetti lunch. Of course once the house is neat and my bag is packed, I had to find somewhere to go with a baby and a dog. Thankfully, my family is wonderful and lives in town, so Madeline took several naps in her Pack 'n Play at her Ning and Papa's house. Those turned out to be really fun visits! And certainly special time as we get closer to our moving date next week.

Yesterday, we went to Apple Blossom Farm with my friend, Kris, and her two adorable daughters, Ella and Claire. We had a great time jumping in the Bouncy House, admiring the rabbits, ducks and goats, and eating fresh apple cinnamon donuts. The highlight for me was listening to Madeline proudly shout "Goat" at the petting zoo (she thinks they say "moo" if you ask her).

This weekend, Rob was usher in our friend Jake and Natalie's wedding in downtown Chicago. Every last detail was exquisite, planned with their guests' in mind; the bride looked breathtaking in her Vera Wang gown. I was even invited to ride around with the bridal party in the trolley! The ceremony was at St. Clement's Cathedral in Lincoln Park, and the reception was at Cafe Brauer in Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a really fun weekend away for Rob and me -- we got to spend time with some of our very best friends and relax while Rob's parents, Gram and Nicki took extra special care of Madeline.

When we got home, we heard all about their adventures and promptly had a fashion show with all of Madeline's new fall clothes! It was hard to leave knowing that next time we see them, we'll live in Nashville. While we won't be able to make any more day trips, we kept reminding ourselves as we said goodbye that we're just a bit further down the road.

And lastly, just wanted to remember all the 9/11 victims and their families.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bye Bye Book Club

Last night, my book club -- a lovely group of women who have become friends -- planned a good-bye dinner for me at a swanky restaurant called Seven (food from all the continents). We've been getting together for six months, reading diligently and actually discussing the books we read before we break off into the wonderful type of conversation you would never have if men were around (topics like nursing, wedding planning and fashion).

This was the first book club I've ever joined; even though I'm an avid reader, I've always been terrified of the commitment. What I discovered is that you learn so much about people in a way that you simply wouldn't in casual small talk. And not only that, but I read terrific books that I might not have otherwise read.

Since we're moving, I have become an honorary member of the club -- I'll still try to read the same books down in Tennessee. Joanna, Stacey, Liz, Lindsey, Laureen, Carrie and Jen -- thank you for a wonderful evening and for your generous friendship!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Family is Growing....

Even more big news: Madeline is going to be a big sister! We are thrilled to be expecting Baby Number Two next March (which makes me about 12 weeks pregnant). Though Madeline doesn't totally understand yet, she is very excited in her own little way. She loves babies -- in fact, she says the word "baby" more than any other, begging to see them in books, chasing them down in public (most recently at the farmers market yesterday) and trying to hug them when she sees them in strollers. Since learning the news that "Mommy has a baby in her tummy," she pulls up my shirt, pointing at my stomach, saying, "Baaaa-by" in her sweet little voice (she also does it to Rob, my dad and anyone else within reach). Even so, it melts my heart. Lately she has started giving my belly kisses.

We had a great time telling our families. Madeline wore a shirt that said "Big Sister in Training" and the back read "March 2009." Maple had her own shirt that guessed at her inner most thoughts -- "Oh no! Not again..." With my family, we waited for Andrea to come home from UCLA and hosted a relaxed dinner with my dad, Ning, Andi and her boyfriend, Kyle. When it was time for Madeline to go to bed, we changed her into her "PJs," which was, of course, when Madeline and Maple came downstairs sharing the big news. I wish I could have recorded everyone's reaction at once and played it back in slow motion. It was so fun!

We also couldn't wait to share the news with Rob's family! We were lucky enough to have a long-standing weekend planned in Geneva, so we shared the news the very night we arrived. Sandie didn't even see Madeline's shirt until later -- she figured it out just by looking at the dog! The next night, we shared the news with some of our closest friends at a 30th birthday party that Sandie and Tom hosted for a group of us. It has really been a joy.

We just returned from a house hunting trip in Nashville, leaving Madeline for a week with our families. We missed her so much (a week is a long time!), but she had so much fun, spending the first and last several days with my dad and Ning in Peoria and the chunk of time in-between with the Vlachs. She went to the pool and the water park almost every day, also taking lots of walks and trips to the playground. What a loved little girl!

Our trip to Nashville was successful and thankfully, we returned with a Tennessee address (but just barely). The "working vacation" we were planning turned out to be more work than vacation. After looking at 50 houses, we ended up going back to the drawing board on our last day in Nashville after an offer we placed on a house was beat out by two competitive offers (and we offered more than asking price!). We woke up determined on our last day and were lucky enough to actually find a house we loved in a perfect location. We were still negotiating on our drive back to Peoria. The worst part was that I was fighting off a bug, which made the first three days especially challenging. That said, we did have wonderful meals with several great friends, and we got to peek into the exciting adventure that awaits us in Nashville. We're still working on details, but just as we expected, the big move will happen in mid-Septebmer (which is only three weeks away!). Most importantly, we have plenty of room for guests and hope that everyone will consider visiting us in Music City! (Flights on Southwest from Chicago only take an hour and almost cost less than the gas it takes to drive). Come on down!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Music City, Here We Come! (And More...)

Two weekends ago was our fabulous fiesta-themed 30th birthday party! More than 100 friends and their little ones came by to help us celebrate (many bearing tequila, but one anonymous guest dropped off some prunes to help us in our "old age"). My sister Mollie was the greatest surprise of all -- after telling me she wasn't able to come, she hopped on a plane from Denver and appeared in my sleep (I was already in bed when she arrived) a few nights before the party! There were Mexican flags hung through the backyard, lanterns in trees, flowing margaritas and a taco bar, and 75 brightly-colored cupcakes decorated with Mexican flags. And yes, we did light 30 candles -- the first one was almost burned down by the time we got to the 30th. The night before the party, we were downloading Ricky Martin, Shakira, "The Macarena" and "La Cucharacha" from iTunes -- now that's a party mix! The truly sad part (actually inexcusable for someone who writes a blog) is that after taking some photos of the decorations before guests even arrived, we never got the camera back out we don't even have a shot of Rob and I blowing out our candles. But maybe some memories are best to let live in the moment, and that's certainly what we did!

On to the V.B.N. (Very Big News)! Only days before the party, we learned that Caterpillar is transferring us to Nashville, Tennessee. We're very excited about our next adventure in Music City....which will begin soon! Rob starts his new job on October 1, so we're hoping we'll be able to sell our house in Peoria, buy a house down South and actually move in the next eight short weeks. The process has begun with a fury -- the phone is ringing nonstop, between the five inspectors, two realtors, two appraisers, moving company and repairmen who all have appointments this week (three tomorrow before noon!).

The last weeks have flown by with the party and move preparations so that our wonderful family vacation to visit my grandma in Arkansas came and went without mention. Over the fourth of July, we drove through the night and stayed for four days in Fairfield Bay, swimming, boating, reading and relaxing. We had a fun visit with my Aunt Ann, Uncle Scott and cousin Amanda too! Madeline took her first dip in the lake and loved circling Sugarloaf Mountain in my Uncle's speed boat. It just wasn't the same without my grandpa doing his crossword puzzles and saying, "Babe, we got another one" when a new email popped up on the computer screen. But we did feel close to him and had a wonderful visit with my grandma, who is very brave.

This weekend past, Rob went up to Coloma, MI for a guy's weekend to celebrate his friend Jake's upcoming wedding (Rob isn't able to go to the bachelor party in Vegas a few weeks from now). They slow-roasted four different kinds of meat, played poker, took the boat out, competed at bags (some people call it "Cornhole" but I can't say it, much less write it without giggling) and drank beer -- boy heaven. Madeline and I were thrilled to be dropped off at our friend Erin and Erik's house in Chicago as Rob traveled North. Jamie, Eric and Kainoa were there Thursday and Friday as well, so we had a great time -- eating late night ice-cream, going for walks, making a nice dinner and reading gossip magazines. Girl heaven!

We also spent a wonderful day with my dad and Nancy last week. Madeline and my dad were inseparable...they were like old fishing buddies who grew up together. He read her books, she "helped" him type emails. They went for a long walk along Grand View Drive, but only after spending time playing in the garden. They even checked the mail together. At one point, when Madeline couldn't find her Papa, she looked through the crack underneath a closed door, sadly moaning his name. Later, when she saw Ning, she threw open her arms and launched herself forward -- it was the biggest hug I've ever seen from such a little person.

So life is busy and only getting busier. But even if it takes me a little while between posts, I'll keep writing!