Monday, November 29, 2010

Nashville Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving was a blast -- we loved having my dad and Nancy visit us in Nashville for the holiday. And the best surprise ever was the call we got from Kyle, Andi's new husband, saying they were driving down from St. Louis for an overnight stay to sit at the Thanksgiving table with us, despite their busy work schedules. Family is truly the best gift life has to offer, though we missed Mollie and Kenny, who were celebrating in Denver, and Rob's family, who we'll see at Christmas.

Rob and I made two turkeys -- one was cornbread stuffed with maple orange glaze, and Rob smoked the other in his Yankee Smoker. There were so many sides that we staggered into the living room, where we all decorated the Christmas tree, listened to carols and waited until our stomachs made some room for pie. My dad and Nancy ordered every other meal throughout their entire stay from Super Suppers -- so they most definitely hosted us in our own home. They are so thoughtful and generous, reminding us of what Thanksgiving is really about -- being grateful for all the blessings in our lives.

We had a great time decorating a gingerbread house, of course eating the candy as we went (Charlie by the fistful). It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to hear his forlorn calls for "PaaaaPaaaa," even if he was just napping on the couch a few feet away. Madeline found a never ending stash of Skittles in Ning's purse, a little game they share. The day after Thanksgiving, my dad and Nancy treated Rob and me to an incredible dinner at the Red Pony, a fine restaurant in downtown Franklin. It was fun to get dressed up and go on a double date.

One of the highlights of the trip was when Ning took Madeline to her first movie. She was so excited that she dressed up like a princess to see Tangled! Madeline looked tiny in the oversize theater chairs, happily nibbling on fruit snacks and popcorn and never once taking her wide eyes away from the big screen. I think I watched her watch the movie more than I actually watched it myself. Even though she was enchanted by it all, after about 25 minutes, she quietly whispered to me that she was ready to go home, so we cheerfully packed it up and already can't wait for the next show. 

If you stop by our house, the carols are playing, the stockings are hung, and you'll find me addressing Christmas cards. 'Tis the season!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Haircut to Remember

Well, I've been waiting and the day finally arrived. Madeline gave herself a haircut.

While I was Christmas shopping with my aunt, Madeline pulled a pair of scissors out of a basket (set up high to keep kids out) and sheared her bangs to about half an inch from her forehead. Then she added some significant layering to the sides and gave herself a bald spot in the back for good measure. Rob said he found her standing with a mound of spiral curls around her feet.

I always wondered what would come first -- this, or the big wad of blue gum that peanut butter won't remove (that hasn't happened yet, but I'll look forward to it when the slumber parties begin). I guess this is just another example of Madeline's budding self-expression. For some reason, the back of her head has always grown like a weed, while the front won't grow at all. So for three and a half years, we've been carefully growing the front out, and whacking an inch off the back every few months to avoid the inevitable mullet. But the hair was gone with the flick of her little fingers in those giant red scissors. She absolutely glowed with pride at her work. It was impossible not to laugh at how ridiculous it looked. But I found myself yesterday noticing the sheer volume of her baby fine hair that's gone and missing those soft curls with an ache.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pigs in Mud

A couple of mornings ago, I came downstairs from quickly blow drying my hair to find Madeline and Charlie rolling in two pounds of shredded cheddar. In the living room. Visualize this for a second: Charlie is shirtless on his back, rolling from side to side, grinding the cheese into the carpet with his 32 pound body. Madeline is on her elbows and knees, stuffing fistfuls into her mouth like we've never fed her. And Maple thinks she's died and gone to heaven. The cheese is showered everywhere; the empty zip top bag that I just bought the day before is littered on the floor, next to a couple of mutilated string cheeses.

My first instinct was to laugh and take pictures, but then I realized I'd come downstairs to food explosions every day (I took the pictures secretly). So I made my face look serious and said, "Oh, this is so sad." I softly asked Madeline if cheese belongs on the floor. Then I asked her how we could clean it up. Fast forward five minutes, and Madeline's wiry little body was pushing the vacuum cleaner around the carpet with all her might. It would only move a few inches at a time. "Mommy, it's so loud!" she would cry over the deafening force of our new HEPA-approved vacuum. "I know," I told her sadly, then pointed out some more cheese under the ottoman. The weight of the machine rolled the cheese like a thin pancake onto its wheels -- it would have been so much easier to clean the mess up myself. But Rob and I had just gone to our weekly parenting class the night before and I was determined.

All this before 8am. I guess I should grateful that it was cheese and not peanut butter, or something much much worse. And that the rug is dark. But I have to say, I can certainly appreciate how rolling around half naked in cheese and eating it with reckless abandon would be absolutely fabulous if you're a kid. Or maybe even 32?

Monday, November 8, 2010

House of Madeline

Move over Chanel. Madeline is developing her own style, and it's all kinds of fabulous....if only she were still 18 months old.

About six months ago, Madeline discovered that many of her baby clothes are still in her closet. Once, they were neatly packed and labeled in bags and hung on hangers, organized by size. Ah, memories. Now, she has figured out if she pushes her padded rocking chair over to her open closet, she can pull down anything she wants. So she disappears into her room and emerges sometime later in sweatshirts that stop at her elbows, skirts that just barely cover her tiny rear end and mismatched infant socks that don't extend past her heels. There's often some random bikini top or bottom involved. Or a hat so small it looks like a polka-dotted yamika.

Soon after she discovered her baby clothes, she discovered Charlie's. A whole new closet brimming with possibilities.... So now there are little boy onesies covered in baseballs or fish, underneath sundresses that fit two years ago.

Notice Charlie's aquatic-themed onesie...
We made a deal. She can wear whatever she wants in the house. But when we go in public, she has to wear clothes that fit her (and I do use "fit" loosely. She still looks pretty wack-a-doodle sometimes). She'll happily comply, but minutes after we're home again, she's usually back up in her room piecing together a new ensemble -- a corduroy jumper that stops at her hips and baby tights with the crotch at her knees. The laundry is staggering, since the outfit changes are nonstop throughout the day and she has a deep love for yogurt and red sauce. And I know that I could stow the clothes away, but it feels cruel to take away something that makes her so completely and innocently happy. Today, she discovered the bracelets she received at her baptism when she was three months old, and don't think for a second that we didn't work for five whole minutes to get the clasp to shut around her 3 1/2 year old wrist.

Rivaling DVF's wrap dress in my tank top!
I have childhood picture after picture as evidence that my mom let my sisters and me dress ourselves growing up. She was an abstract artist, after all. It's such a small way to let Madeline feel like she's in control and help build her budding confidence. So on a superficial level, while I sometimes (desperately) wish Madeline would wear the outfits she has in her drawers (the ones that coordinate and actually fit her), I'm also proud of her for the choices she makes on her own. I suppose this is just the beginning. Once day, she might come home from college with a crazy major or a silly boy or blue hair, and I'll want to steer her the "right" way. But unconditional love is accepting her for exactly who she is, and these early fashion choices are a great way for me to practice the love and support that I expect will be easier to talk about than it is to exercise.

So I say, Go Girl. Rock those purple wellingtons with your pajama pants and velvet sparkly Christmas dress (from two holiday seasons ago). You got it going on.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Puppy and a Fairy Princess on the Loose

I know in my last post, I just said I love fall, but I really love Halloween! We had a blast last weekend. On Saturday, Charlie climbed into his barking puppy dog costume (it looked like we had two Maples running around the house, and yes, it actually barked) and Madeline dressed up as a fairy princess (everything came straight out of our dress up closet, including the clip on earrings and fairy wings) -- we piled into the car and drove five minutes to downtown Franklin's Halloween festival. There was live music, vendors passing out candy and the smell of kettle corn and fresh potato chips. It was a perfect way to spend an hour getting into the Halloween spirit.

The next day, several couples and their adorable ladybugs, Marios and Supermans came over to our house for a festive dinner (blood red martinis for the adults) and trick-or-treating. Our dear friends arrived fully decked out as characters from the Cat in the Hat, including Thing One and Thing Two. Rob went as Hillbilly Bond (or Redneck 007), tearing the sleeves off a button down, cutting off some denim jeans into gross jorts, and wearing his tuxedo vest and bow tie. Coors Light caps served as button covers. I pulled out an oldie but a goodie -- dusted off my feather boa, combed my black wig, found my fishnets and put on my flapper dress. And I'm going to give myself a little extra credit here -- I walked the kids around the neighborhood in four inch heels.

After two straight days of doing everything in his Maple suit, suddenly Charlie insisted on wearing his Ninja costume, a $2-purchase I grabbed at a consignment shop to try to add some boy things to the overwhelmingly feminine dress up closet. No joke: the kid was making ninja sounds and karate chop motions all night. Madeline enchanted neighbors with her sweet little manners in a flouncy tulle dress and glittering shoes.

Now I'm just trying to stuff an extra banana into my kids diet here and there to offset the crazy sugar consumption going on. But hey, it's only Halloween once a year!

Glorious Fall

Fall is my favorite season. It's romantic -- bundling up in a sweater and holding hands to stay warm. Rob and I even got married in the fall. But like everything, this season is zipping by at warp speed. Here's what we've been up to the last few weeks:

The weather has been incredible, and we haven't missed a chance to soak it up -- picnicking, playing on the playground, raking leaves, enjoying evening fire pits, and going for nature walks to see the changing leaves.

Madeline and Charlie had a wonderful time visiting a pumpkin patch with their Grammy and Aunt Nicki! What would autumn be without a hayride? This one wound us throughout a farm, and we got to ride alongside brand new calves still nestled into their mamas. There were hay mazes, tire swings and slides; we ended the morning by picking out mini pumpkins.

We had a great time visiting a fire station with my Moms Club -- I enjoyed it just as much as the kids. Charlie was so excited -- jumping, squealing and pumping his arms -- by the lights and sirens and just the sight of the trucks that even the fire fighters kept laughing. While we were there, the bell went off; we watched guys drop down the fire pole, suit up and tear out of the station in a truck.

In other exciting news, Rob is thrilled to have officially accepted a new role within Caterpillar right here in Nashville. Congratulations, Robbie!

He and I are taking a six week parenting course offered by our pediatrician's office, so every Tuesday night, a sitter puts the kids to bed and we go off to school. Ning called it my "Continuing Education," which is Caterpillar's terminology for ongoing job training -- I love to think of it that way! Though last night, when we couldn't find the course's new location, we decided to go on a pizza date instead. Even the child psychologist teaching the class agreed date nights win parenting points.

Madeline loves her swimming lessons twice a week. She dunks her spiral curls under the water in her oversize goggles and splashes around with Coach Katie.

She's growing up so fast; sometimes I'm just astounded by adult-sounding things she says, like, "I suppose, " or "This opera music is pretty." (Full disclaimer: we own one opera song, which she later heard on a commercial and blew Rob's socks off with her little comment). She loves baking, cracking her own eggs into a bowl and spooning batter into muffin cups. The kitchen looks like a Category Five storm has swept through when we're done, but any mess is worth the pride she feels. She begs for "ballerina music," then twirls around the living room to Mozart or the Nutcracker. Madeline has never particularly liked being separated from Rob and me in any way (the histrionics!), so it's a real joy to see how much she loves running into her Sunday school class...and begs to stay when it's over. She comforts Charlie when sitters come to the house, saying, "It's okay, buddy. Mommy always comes back." And today, when Charlie's balloon popped in the grocery store, Madeline didn't hesitate before saying, "I'll share mine with you, Charlie."

Charlie is learning a new word every day: this morning, he literally shouted "Bye!" at Rob while blowing kisses (which looks more like he's enthusiastically popping himself in the nose) and then grinned at each of us like he just solved world peace in the Middle East.  That said, most days are still like a 12-hour round of charades. When he's hungry, he gets a plate out of his drawer and puts it at his seat. When he's sorry, he hugs his sister and kisses her face. And naturally, there's lots of pointing, grunting and ultimately crying, if we can't figure out what he wants. These days, there is simply not one single thing that Madeline does alone; Charlie is at her heels imitating everything. On Monday, he stripped off all his clothes and tried to join her swimming lesson. He hums Twinkle Twinkle all day long to himself; often, the lyrics go "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama...." He is probably the most affectionate child I have ever met. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven when he catches my eye from across the room and sprints, arms wide open, for a hug.

A boy, a ball, a stick and his dog. Life is good.