Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another Christmas Comes and Goes...

We had a wonderful Christmas with my family right here in Nashville! Everyone -- my dad, Ning, Mollie, Andi and my grandma -- flew in from all around the country. It was a gift to be together, and an even greater gift that they all traveled to us! We stayed in a rented house only 40 minutes from where we live (interesting sidenote: it's owned by a Pro Bass Fisherman named Rusty Rust, who has his own Saturday morning fishing program).

We celebrated Christmas Eve at our house in Franklin. Santa and his reindeer came while we were at the candlelight service at church. Madeline was so excited to leave out cookies and carrots, and tore at her gifts with squeals and delight. Charlie could tell it was a special night and enjoyed the festivities too!

Back at the other house, we took walks, read gossip magazines, had a fabulous dance party, soaked in the hot tub, played spirited card games (lots of trash talk, especially from my grandma!), got pedicures, and talked and talked and talked and talked... Of course, we all had on our matching pajamas embroidered with our names! Ning does an amazing job quietly orchestrating every small detail so the rest of us just relax and enjoy. It was so fun watching my family play with the kids. My sisters spun them and knocked down giant block towers, my dad took Madeline down to the lake to chase geese and throw rocks ("bonk fish on the head," which she thought was hilarious!), and Ning played make-believe princess (she conned Madeline into washing her hair by making a bubble hat -- genius!). Charlie charmed everyone with his gummy smiles, and made us laugh by bouncing in earnest during our dance party! It was so special to have my grandma with us -- she added so much to our Christmas. My sisters' and my gift to her was to tell her, in words we wrote before hand, how she and my grandpa have influenced our marriages, relationships and childhoods. We all had tear stained cheeks!

We received one more surprise Christmas gift before the week was over. Mollie's flight was canceled, so we got to have her with us for an extra day! We were thinking of Rob's family, as I know my sisters were thinking of their significant others as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Almost Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I just love this time of year. Madeline helped decorate the Christmas tree; she loves using the ornaments as jewelry for herself and her stuffed animals. If I try to put them back on the tree, she'll say, "Mommy, that's Foofah's shoe!" (Foofah is a character from a strange, but entertaining children's show called Yo Gabba Gabba.) Charlie's fascinated too, but he mostly just likes to chew on the low hanging ornaments that we know are safe. We play A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Nutcracker on repeat; Madeline asks me daily when we can leave carrots and cookies for Santa and his reindeer. After waving to Santa in the mall, Madeline peppered me with questions about the North Pole for days. I sat her on my lap and we looked at Google Maps for 30 minutes, talking about polar bears and all sorts of other things. We're in the South, so there are giant nativity sets in every other lawn -- it's a great reminder to talk about Baby Jesus every time we hop in the car to run errands. Children put the wonder in Christmas; they allow us to be kids again!

We had so much fun going to Opryland's Christmas display with friends! There were millions of lights, a Christmas tree that rivals the one at Rockefeller Center, train rides, and life size zebras and giraffes on giant swings hanging from the atrium ceiling. We've also been doing the playdate circuit, celebrating Danish Christmas traditions, making ornaments and decorating gingerbread cookies. Every time I see Madeline and Charlie in the matching sweater dress/vest that Rob's mom gave them, I think I've died and gone to heaven.

Here are some of the day-to-day highlights in our house over the last few weeks:
  • The heel on one of my black boots buckled and snapped. I took them off and said, "Oh well. These are broken." Madeline, who helps her daddy fix things on the weekends, ran into the kitchen and started smearing chap stick all over my boot. I realized she thought it was a glue stick! Then she asked me for a piece of tape and was absolutely triumphant when I let her believe they were repaired.
  • Today in the grocery store, Madeline exclaimed out of the blue, "Mommy, you're awesome and I'm fun!" I should record that and play it for myself on bad hair days.
  • Charlie is cruising, crawling on all fours, pulling up like a maniac and cutting his top two teeth (ouch!). Today as we were leaving the grocery store, he demanded his own balloon. If you think a ten month old can't tell you want he wants, well, then you should have been there. He's growing up!
  • On Monday, the kids and I went to Rob's office to visit his coworkers and get their H1N1 boosters. I realized when I got home that I had two pairs of Elmo underwear dangling out of my back pocket.
We can hardly wait for Meg's family and grandma to arrive on Wednesday. Hope you're all enjoying this festive season and looking forward to the holiday!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

We had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with Rob's family, who was so generous to travel all the way from Chicago for the holiday. Rob was Chef Extraordinaire, beginning with Thursday's feast, which included a smoked turkey, a maple-and-orange oven roasted turkey, spicy cornbread stuffing, buttery green beans, mashed potatoes and a wonderful cranberry cointreau chutney. On Friday, he made two batches of homemade turkey soup -- one traditional and one a spicy Mexican version. On Saturday, we celebrated Christmas all day long -- Rob ended our day with a delicious southern barbecue. Every morning, we had big batches of french toast or oatmeal, and every night, after the kids were in bed, we watched a movie. Oh, and there was lots of football in between.

Madeline and Charlie had so much fun with their Grammy, Grandpa, Aunt Nicki and Gigi! Tom gave Madeline a remote control car, which both fascinated and terrified her -- she loved using the remote, but begged to be picked up whenever the car lurched towards her (it was hilarious watching her scramble onto the nearest piece of furniture). Rob and I felt pampered -- we stole away for three quick dates.

On Sunday, after the Vlachs started their nine hour drive home, we spent the day decorating for Christmas and we've been listening to carols ever since!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Madeline and Charlie

Wow, our days fly by. Here's an update....

Madeline's curiosity and imagination are explosive right now. At bedtime the other night, she fired off one question after another so rapidly that I started laughing until I was crying. "Mommy, do sharks bite? Are there swings in Atlanta? Toys? Slides? Is an aquaria (aquarium) a fish zoo? Are the fish pink? Can we go for a helicopter ride?" The other day I asked what she was drawing with her markers. She told me it was a concrete mixer. At dinner, she told us all about a swimming pool that's filled with milk. Then she added she was going to name her bunny, Hog. All this while Elmo sat at the end of the table, eating discarded hamburger and mutilated bread that Madeline put on the plate she set for him (we praised her for sharing). But the best was her tearing down our driveway as fast as her legs would carry her, purple balloon in hand, yelling, "I'mmm runnnnniinnnggg myyyyy heaarrrrrrrttttt ouuuutttttttt!"

At two years and eight months, she's growing into her own person. She now sleeps in a big girl bed; Rob likens her new-found freedom to being a freshman in college. Once, we found her passed out with a book on the floor by her night light. Every morning, she wakes up wearing different pajamas than the ones she wore to bed. She's also potty trained, only wearing a diaper when she sleeps. Madeline likes doing everything for herself, especially dressing herself -- there are about three to eight wardrobe changes daily (by the end of the day, her outfits are whacked out -- tie dye socks, orange flower skirt, blue puppy dog shirt, with a hair bow that matched six outfits ago...). We have daily birthday parties for all her animals, and I love overhearing her sing I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor and Ring Around the Rosie to herself. After every meal, she asks in her sweet little voice, "May I please be excused?" Madeline, girl, you're fabulous.

And Charlie is already nine months old! He is active, strong and mobile as ever, dragging himself around the house on his elbows in an army crawl. He's desperate to be in the center of the action. If he hears Madeline and his daddy being silly on the second floor, he wiggles over to the base of the stairs and gently squawks until someone carries him up for some wrestling. His favorite pastime is to open the coat closet and suck on all the shoes on the floor. He's totally distracted from nursing just by the thought of a toy on the floor behind him. He just started pulling up, loves seeing his reflection in the mirror and attacks his solid foods with gusto.

Charlie's personality and temperament are so sweet, laid back, eager, curious. He's talkative too -- we love listening to his sweet little boy voice as he practices making sounds. His face erupts into a giant smile just by looking at him. He loves to laugh, and he laughs hard! He's a little dance machine at our nightly dance parties, and he drags himself around behind Madeline wherever she goes. We're head over heels in love, Charles.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we're eagerly waiting for Rob's family to pull into the driveway any minute. We feel so grateful for all that we have to be thankful for; this season is such a wonderful reminder of that. Wishing you a great holiday with your families!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Broccoli Bin Laden

Here's something you should never do: Never put cooked, leftover broccoli in your refrigerator vegetable bin. It slips underneath the celery, then gets buried by all the new groceries you bring home each week, and before long, there's a nasty, unidentified smell.

This has gone on for weeks. It took us several days to even connect the stench with the fridge. We kept checking baby diapers. Eventually, we thought we had pinpointed it to a casserole I made. A week after that was gone (and the smell stayed), we were certain it was the homemade chicken soup Rob made last weekend. Chicken Fart Soup. Yum.

Yesterday, Rob actually asked me if I passed gas. I acted horrified, then reminded him that he had just opened the fridge. "Oh yeah," he said. "Sorry." He went on a rampage, throwing away anything that was more than a day or two old. Our sink was half-filled with emptied Gladware containers.

But the smell bit my nose off again this morning when I got out the milk for oatmeal. My turn to go on a bender. Ah-hah!! The innocent little plastic Ziploc, filled with broccoli that was once green. Hidden and lurking like Bin Laden in the dank caves of Afghanistan.

Save your broccoli; that's fine. Just don't let it slip away. Or else the finger pointing begins....

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Aside from Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday. Madeline loved wearing the cat costume that Ning sent. After digging through the attic, garage and closets, we never found Charlie's yet-to-be-unpacked Goldfish costume, so he ended up going as a linebacker in his football pajamas with black stripes on his cheeks (for his brief 15 minute appearance). Since he was asleep in his crib before the sun even set, we carried the baby monitor with us as we visited six houses on our cul-de-sac. Maple came too, humiliated and staggering along in her Elmo costume...again.

Madeline caught onto the concept of trick-or-treating pretty quickly. She tentatively knocked on our neighbors' doors, then promptly tried to enter each of their houses. I would whisper in her ear that it was time to say trick-or-treat. So she would quietly whisper it too, just as I had to her. Then, after a big smile and a barely audible thank you, she happily trotted off to another house, which she would try to enter. (She was successful twice, helping herself to the candy bowl in the entry way. Sadly, it was the same house both times.)

Rob and I tried to get into the spirit of things too. He wore his Napoleon Dynamite wig (leftover from the Halloween bashes we threw every year until we had kids). I put on my black wig, but took it off when I realized I looked like a freaky goth bumblebee. That said, when we were all four in costume and ready to join the forming street party outside our door, Madeline said, "Mommy, you look so stylish!" And if that isn't great, she told Rob he looked fabulous!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower"
- Albert Camus

Fall is gorgeous here. We go for walks almost every morning when it's cool -- the kids bundle up under blankets (Charlie wears the fisherman sweater and matching hat that my Aunt Arlene brought him from Cape Cod). The air warms up by mid day before getting crisp again at night.

Rob is doing his very best to teach us football. I'm a distracted student. Charlie would rather chew on Madeline's dolls, and Madeline repeatedly asks to watch Yo Gabba Gabba instead. We may be a tough audience, but he hasn't given up yet. This will be the first fall since we graduated that we'll miss going to an Illinois football game, but it feels nice to be done traveling for the year. Rob has dusted off his smoker -- we're enjoying his ribs and pulled pork. Soon we'll build crackling fires again. The leaves are starting to turn brilliant colors -- just yesterday, Madeline said, "Mommy, that tree is purple!" And it was! This weekend, we'll roast marshmallows in the outdoor fire pit and go pick out some pumpkins. Fall is romantic to me. I love everything about it (except the chilly rain, but that hasn't stopped us from playing outside).

These moments, days and weeks move so fast. With each funny thing Madeline says or exciting new thing Charlie does, I think to myself "I have to write that down." Here are a collection the fun things that have been going on in our house:
  • Aunt Andi visited us from Washington D.C, arriving after the kids were in bed. I've never seen Madeline as excited as she was the next morning. She jumped up and down for at least five minutes before giving her high-energy aunt an Urlacher bear hug. Andi gave Madeline and Charlie molds that make monkey, lion or elephant-shaped pancakes. Watching Rob at the griddle reminded us of our dad making Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes (and then acting like Mickey was screaming as we ate him. Nice dad!)
  • Mollie asked Andi and me to be her matron and maid of honor! We love you, Mollie and Kenny!
  • Yesterday, after I'd gotten dressed for the day, Madeline exclaimed, "Mommy, that is a fab-u-ous red bracelet." Have you ever heard anything more fabulous from a two-and-a-half year old?!
  • When Charles was first born, several people asked us if we were going to call him Chuck. Each time (after throwing up a little in my mouth; no offense to the Chucks of the world), I smiled pleasantly and answered, "Um. No. We're going to call him Charlie." Sometimes Rob and I jokingly call him Chuck, so I had to share this picture of him in his little red Chuck Taylors!
  • We discovered the power of reverse psychology with our headstrong and fiercely independent toddler (two qualities I love about her!). If we pretend like we can't remember where her room is, she'll run up the stairs to get ready for bed. If we act like she might be too little to do something, it almost always instantly happens before our eyes. The Happiest Toddler on the Block is my new favorite book. Buy it.
  • Madeline, Charlie and I had our flu shots last week. I brought Madeline a juice box as a surprise for when it was all over. She loved it so much (the juice, that is), she asked if she could have another shot. She even remembered to say please.
  • While I quietly nursed Charlie in the living room, Rob and Madeline chattered away in the kitchen, not knowing I was listening. Madeline asked her daddy for a "mani/pedi." Rob chuckled and said she might need to talk to mommy about that (though I do have pictures of Rob painting Madeline's toenails red in Gulf Shores).
  • Charlie got his bottom two teeth at the end of September! Now the little guy often eats a mashed up version whatever we're having -- homemade chicken noodle soup, vegetable lasagna, broccoli and rice and beans.
  • A few weeks ago, we went to friends' birthday party for their one-year-old. Madeline is known to have quite an appetite, but the host was shocked to watch her methodically devour the paper cupcake liner after finishing the actual cupcake.It was over before he could save her from herself. Mads, honey, I know the feeling.
Hope you're enjoying this beautiful season and staying warm!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Babies Gone Wild

What do you get when you put seven babies and eight college friends under one roof? Raucous fun, Rock Band, pillow forts and some pretty hilarious trips down memory lane.

This weekend, we went to Brown County, Indiana, with my Delta Gamma girlfriends, Erin, Jamie and Tara, and their families. At two and a half, Madeline was the oldest child; the youngest is due in eight weeks. We've known each other for 13 years -- we were already best friends when each of us met, dated and married our husbands. We've shared bedrooms and apartments, hosted bridal showers and baby showers, bathed each other's kids, and helped each other through really tough times too. This weekend was the first time most of us met each other's newest baby boys.

The guys watched football and whaled on their plastic guitars while the girls sipped wine and talked until 1am. As the exciting weekend approached, Rob and I joked that it was going to be Cirque de Soleil. But it was surprisingly relaxing! We've scheduled our next trip for late April 2010 and I'm already counting down the weeks (30).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Growing Up Fast!

Madeline started school in late August and absolutely loves it! There were tears at the first three drop offs (and not just hers...). As soon as she was out of sight I admit to blubbering as I watched her run into the school room, pigtails bouncing, with her oversize backpack and plush cat lunch box. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, she wakes up excited to brush her hair and teeth, put on her running shoes and help pack a healthy lunch so she can go "play with the kids." The preschool is in our neighborhood, which is wildly convenient; she's home in time for a nice, long nap after a busy morning. Last week, her class had Show-and-Tell, highlighting the letter C. Madeline proudly showed off a picture of Charlie wearing his mini Cubs uniform.

And speaking of Charlie, he's rocking on all fours. Since crawling isn't far off, baby proofing and regular vacuuming (ugh) is back on my To Do list. He's also sitting up, with the occasional face-plant ("Timber!"). And finally, he learned how to put himself to sleep a few weekends ago with minimal tears. Rather than rocking him all the way to sleep, we now lay him in his crib awake and he takes it from there. Last night he slept 13 hours without a peep. We're so proud of him! Or as Madeline would say, "He should be so proud of himself!"

We also had an extra special visit from Rob's mom and grandma. Madeline adores her Grammy and Gigi! They kept her entertained with water balloons, games and lots of stories. We had a fun lunch at a Swedish bakery in downtown Franklin, and they even sent Rob and me on a date. We are eager to see everyone again at Thanksgiving.

It's easy to happily gloss over these highlights with exclamation points and pride. But the truth is, I was an emotional wreck for weeks. Sending Madeline to preschool was a big decision. And letting Charlie cry for the first time as he learned to self-soothe? I think I'd rather be waterboarded just at the thought of it (and in the end, my dread was much worse than the actual process). They're growing up at lightening speed and I know it's going to keep getting faster. I feel like Rip Van Winkle -- one day will I wake up and they'll be grown? Yes. They will. I just have to slow it down by keeping life simple -- by absorbing, inhaling and cherishing every minute. Thank God for daddies (for so many reasons). Rob balances my hyper (hormonal?) sentimentality with a chuckle and a hug. He hands me my car keys at Charlie's first whimper over the monitor. Best of all, he's here to enjoy it all with me, and to remember it affectionately when diapers, lullabies and sweet potato puree are distant memories.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gulf Shores, Alabama!

Within 15 minutes of pulling into Gulf Shores, Madeline peeled off all her clothes and ripped off her diaper, then rolled around in the soft sand and splashed in the warm waves. It was one of the greatest moments of my life -- watching her pure, uninhibited joy as she experienced the beach for the first time.

We had a wonderful vacation. Something really amazing happened over the course of nine days: Our little family of four knitted together even closer. We started an annual tradition. Rob put it best the last night of our stay during grace when he gave thanks for the chance to fall in love with his family all over again.

Our condo wasn't fancy or stylish (sponge paint and light-up dolphin "art") but it was clean and only a staircase away from the beach. Madeline spent most of her time happily swimming and kicking in the pool, wearing hand-me-down water wings from the dollar store (so much for the $40 life vest I ordered). Charlie loved the water in his floating lady bug.

Any trip with two kids under two-and-a-half is a working vacation. Rob and I took turns going to the beach when the little ones were napping. It took us a few days to adjust to our first beach vacation where "relaxing" still involved night-wakings, diaper changes and nap schedules. But after the first few days, we fell into a routine; we let a new definition of vacation -- family vacation -- wash over us. That's when the real fun began! We ate fresh seafood daily, walked on the beach, flew a kite, played cards, read books and sunbathed.

I should have tried on my bikinis before packing. They pre-date babies, but get so little use that I couldn't bear to buy new ones. When I'm not nursing, I'm about as voluptuous as Madeline. Squeezing into my honeymoon triangle tops was a little ridiculous; I felt like a freckly X-rated Pam Anderson at the family pool.

Here are some of my favorite moments from our trip:
  • On the drive there and back, Madeline excitedly squealed, "Look, it's the Eiffel Tower!" every time we passed a cell or municipal water tower
  • During a heated Crazy Eights game, my (normally) super cool husband, who was losing badly, muttered, "Arf" under his breath. I waited a good 10 seconds before I asked him, "Did you really just say "Arf"? We laughed until we were crying and it became an ongoing joke. He's still living it down in my book
  • Madeline, who's in the midst of toilet training, kept requesting Carrie Underwear (Underwood) for dance parties
  • Eating Royal Reds -- giant lobster-tasting shrimp pulled out of the Gulf, tossed onto our table and served with melted butter -- at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant two minutes from our condo that Coastal Living ranked one of the 10 best seafood joints
  • The sofas in our condo were marine-themed (I know. Yikes). Madeline got excited when she saw starfish and counted, "Look Mom! One, two, three rockstars!" (a term of endearment in our family).
  • At the grocery store, I asked Rob, sounding a little worried, if we had enough grits at home or if we needed more. He said you know you live in the south when grits become a food staple.
Now that we're home again, Rob's a little sad he has to wear shoes (and misses having a cold beer with lunch). We're already planning our next Vlach Family Vacation in Fall 2010!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

After the Rain...

My mom passed away four years ago today. A piece of me wedges loose every August and I feel an emptiness and longing that ebbs and flows. It's like -- for a little while -- my limbs go numb, my heartbeat slows and I know what it must be like to be colorblind. The grief isn't a stabbing pain the way it was at first; it's a duller sadness. Sometimes I imagine she's sitting with me while I quietly nurse Charlie and I feel tears running down my cheeks at 4am. When I trained for my marathon, I used to mentally detach my legs from my brain to ease the physical ache. In August, as the 16th approaches and I feel the weight of her loss, sometimes I try to disassociate my head from my heart. Today I told Madeline I felt sad. She took her band-aid off her knee and put it on my arm, then wrapped her skinny little arms around my neck and made me feel whole again.

Talking about my mom with my sisters sharpens my senses; it's easier to remember how she sounded and what she smelled like and things she said. We always, always end up laughing. Today, Mollie told me about the time she and my mom went clothes shopping at Target for her first professional post-college job. Mols got a phone call and they had to leave suddenly, so my mom, with all her enthusiasm and joie de vivre said, "Let's buy them all!" Without having tried anything on, they wheeled the full shopping cart to the check out and bought $350-worth of clothes, most of them the exact same pants and skirts in different sizes. A week later they returned almost everything...something my mom did often.

She was fabulous. Before she was sick, she had dark shiny hair and wore fuchsia lipstick. She had a beautiful full figure (though she was always trying to lose weight). When she started losing her hair from chemo, she shaved her head with gusto and glittered it with powder from Victoria Secret. She laughed loudly and a lot. She had a funky, eclectic style, and was willing to take risks, which fueled her creativity and is probably part of the reason she was such a talented artist and graphic designer. She painted our kitchen floor white, our fireplace orange and our front door magenta. She was always inventing businesses, and she dreamed about converting an old farmhouse in the countryside into an art studio.

She gave my sisters and me so many gifts, but the faith she worked into our everyday life is one of the greatest. She told me God matches our effort, which I think of often when a challenge feels bigger than me. One of my earliest memories is of her telling me that God has a great sense of humor. When I called home from college stressed out, undecided or brokenhearted, she asked me if I had prayed about it. Sometimes now when I feel stuck, I try to imagine what she would do or say. Ironically, I can imagine her saying simply -- with the loving directness that she was known for -- that she didn't know what to say. It stung then, but it strangely comforts me now. She was teaching us to be independent.

Sometimes after Madeline and I wait out a thunderstorm, the most brilliant sunshine follows and we run outside to play, getting out her chalk, jumping in the puddles and shaking the rain out of the trees. I will never stop missing my mom. August 16 may always be a hurdle. But it also marks the day she went to heaven, and there's something beautiful to celebrate in that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tennessee August

We've been enjoying our warm Tennessee summer. Rob and I went to a beautiful vineyard (owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn) just minutes from our house with a group of friends to celebrate our friend, Codie's, birthday. Madeline, Charlie and I also went to the Nashville Zoo with women from my Mom's Club. Madeline ran from exhibit to exhibit with a pack of busy three-year-olds. I put Charlie in the Baby Bjorn since he was a little fussy, and had to laugh as my diaper bag went for a smooth ride in our deluxe, souped-up double stroller all morning.

We also had a great time in Louisville last weekend visiting our close friends, Eric, Jamie and their son, Kainoa, 18 months. We goofed around until 2am playing Dance Revolution! What a sign of the times that on a "wild" Saturday night, we all toasted with cold foamy pint glasses of...milk. And finally, our dear friends Erica and Craig had a beautiful healthy boy on Saturday -- Kai William Marten. We are so happy for them! Since we couldn't be in Chicago to meet Kai in person, I shamelessly stole this photo from my friend Johanna's blog.

Madeline's a little pistol. She recently stuck a coffee bean up her nose, the first of many foreign objects she'll probably insert into curious places. She also has a favorite "sviped" (striped) bathing suit. It's welded to her body like second skin, stained and sticky with popsicle juice, dirt, paint and anything we've eaten that day. Each morning, I hold up two adorable dresses for her to choose from, and every morning the answer is the same.... "I want to wear my sviped bathing suit." I wash it each night because I know she'll want to wear it the next day. To make things even more interesting, when she isn't in the suit, she's naked! Her Borat moment was just the beginning of a new phase... Yesterday, I looked up to find her riding our neighbor's bike around the cul-de-sac 100% in the nude; I ran out into the street with a diaper and a dress. The same day, she jumped in a John Deere mini-truck with a five-year-old boy on our street and rode away without a backward glance. I stood in the street, blankly watching her pull away, and couldn't help thinking that she would be going off to prom with some boy in a few years.

Charlie's a blast too! He is interested in everything; it's amazing watching him learn. His eyes lock on whatever he sees, then he slowly (as if possessed) reaches his arms out wide and brings them in until he's gripping his target. And the best part -- without fail -- he carefully brings the object to his mouth. We started solids on Friday. Not only did he have to suffer the indignity of eating strained peas, but he did it wearing a hand-me-down bib that said, "Little Fairy." Poor guy. It's so easy to make him laugh. I see the roof of his mouth several times a day because he opens his mouth so wide with glee. He continues to grow at warp speed. At his six month appointment, he was 20.0 pounds; his thighs get stuck in the Bumbo chair when we try to lift him out. As a nursing mom, I can't express the pride that brings me (I did that?).

Rob's mom and grandma arrive tonight. Aunt Nicki had an emergency operation on her eye and wasn't able to come last minute -- we're praying for her quick recovery!