Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Great Friends, Great Food and Another Year Wiser...

Our terrific friends, Janelle and Aaron, visited from Peoria with their sweet children, Quinton (three) and Sloan (one) over Memorial Day weekend -- they are so much fun! After becoming easy, fast friends a few years ago, Janelle and I discovered that we were both Delta Gammas! She and Aaron met at Mizzou, where he was Homecoming King (and fraternity president, just like Rob). Our kids are similar in age and play so well together, so it's a joy to spend time with all four of them. We wanted to throw their car keys in a lake so they could never leave, but having just made the exact same difficult Peoria-to-Nashville drive ourselves with two kids, we understood only-too-well the trip they had ahead of them.

Rob also took a Louisiana-style cooking class called the French Quarter Feast at the Viking Cooking School five miles from our house. Rob loves to cook and he's really amazing in the kitchen! Madeline, Charlie and I surprised him a few minutes into his class by showing up in Mardi Gras masks and beads and taking pictures of him in his official apron. He learned to make seafood gumbo, crawfish pies, Cajun red beans and rice with smoked sausage, and muffulettas with homemade olive salad. The best part is that he's been practicing at home ever since!

And last but not least, I turned 31 yesterday! Or, as my friend Julie puts it, it was my first anniversary of 30. Madeline loved all sweets that kept appearing throughout the day and often said, "More Happy Birthday, Mommy!" -- her way of asking for another cupcake. It was a great day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Charlie is Baptized and More...

It's been another busy month. Could it be that life is just busier now? Hmmm. Yes! And happily so.

Charlie is three months old tomorrow! He's trying to hold up his own head and has started cooing. We've even had several seven-hour sleep stretches at night (hallelujah!). He's charming the pants off of us.

Here's a recap on the last month:

Rob's family came for a fun long weekend. Rob smoked ribs in his new smoker. Papa Tom and Aunt Nicki met Charlie and got to see an official Pants Off Dance Off with their own eyes.

My dear friend, Buffy, visited from Rockford, IL -- she's amazing! It was so fun introducing her to Charlie. We talked for hours into the night (I didn't even mind that I had to get up a few hours later to nurse) and we had a fun girl's night at a Franklin "Meat 'n Three" restaurant. It meant the world to me that she spent that time with us. She flew home on Sunday to spend Mother's Day with her sweet daughter, Ellie, and her husband, Dan. Meanwhile, Rob treated me to a special pancake breakfast and made a delicious salmon dinner. Mother's Day is a bit bittersweet for me -- it's amazing to be celebrated for the most rewarding job I could ever hope for. At the same time, I also miss my own mother very much. As the sharp pain of her loss has softened a little bit with time, I focus on celebrating the memories I have with her, sometimes through tears. On remembering the incredible childhood she and my dad created, on the life lessons she taught me ("God has a sense of humor..."), and on the close friendship we developed in my adulthood.

Then we made the big trip to Peoria this weekend for Andi's Bradley graduation and Charlie's baptism! Andi was honored several times over in her ceremony; we were so happy to be there supporting her! And we pulled in without a minute to spare (as I opened the door, I could hear Andi's voice over the microphone beginning her speech)... It was a ten hour drive in 88 degree weather, traveling in a car with broken air conditioning. Four hot sweaty bodies. Madeline begging for water like we were in the Sahara Desert. Then without warning when we hit St. Louis, the temperature dropped 30 degrees and switched to rain. The windows fogged up; Rob was frantically wiping the steam from the windows with a diaper. During the final 30 minutes, Charlie cried so hard, he threw up! Which scared Madeline enough to cry too. Rob and I caught each other's eye and couldn't even find the words... Finally, we pulled up and I ran in -- with frizzy hair, smeared make up, covered in Madeline's lunch and the contents of Charlie's diapers (so much for the cute sundresses I brought along). But we made it! And most importantly, Andi was amazing (and very worth the trip)! Our friends, Dan and Claire, were generous hosts, graciously allowing our entire family to use their house as "home base" for the weekend. After Friday night's pinning ceremony, there was a brunch and a graduation party on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, we baptized Charles Robert in the church where Rob and I were married and where Madeline was also baptized. The power of it hit me as the Pastor held Charlie and walked him up and down the aisle, asking the congregation of several hundred to take Charlie under their spiritual wing, so to speak. One young girl reach out and touched Charlie's foot, and a three-year-old boy asked his mom if Charlie was Baby Jesus. The best part was that almost everyone was there to witness the moment -- my grandma from Arkansas, my aunt from Spokane, my dad and Ning, Mollie, Andi, Rob's grandma (who met Charlie for the first time!), mom, dad and sister, Kyle, and Grandpa Craig. Madeline came to the alter with us for the ceremony, playing with my pearls and gently yanking on my hair. Charlie wore the ivory knit outfit that Rob was baptized in 30 years ago!

That brings us to the present. Summer's officially here! Our neighborhood pool opens tomorrow and the outdoor festivals have begun. We're so excited to see our terrific friends, the Sullivans, on Sunday!