Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Easter Bunny in Maple's Dog Food?

Yesterday morning, when Madeline went into the garage to fill Maple's food bowl, she immediately came back into the kitchen and said in a calm but small voice, "Mommy, I'm kind of scared." When I asked her why, she answered that something was in Maple's dog food bin. My mind flew to the dead mouse Rob found a few weeks ago and hoped I wouldn't have to try to explain life-and-death in the few minutes before we raced off to her four-year-old check up.

At the bottom of the bin right outside our door was a baby bunny....very much alive and curious about the giant faces that kept peering in at it. Madeline and Charlie were so excited! We gently carried the bin to our front yard, and I carefully tipped it to the ground so the bunny could hop out (trying not to bury the bunny in a landslide of dog food). Then we ran inside and watched the scene from our front door. About five minutes later, Madeline shrieked, "Mommy! The bunny just hopped out!" She proudly told her pediatrician that morning that she saved a baby bunny; Charlie was very proud too, saying, "Baby booney!" all day.

Our bunny adventure could not be more timely since Madeline has been very inquisitive about the Easter Bunny lately. In fact, last month, she talked to the Easter Bunny (a preplanned phone conversation with Ning), asking all sorts of practical questions like where does he live, how does he make chocolate bunnies and does he walk on his hind legs? After she hung up, Madeline innocently said, "Mommy, the Easter Bunny sounds just like Ning!" She's been leaving carrots by the front door (just like we leave cookies for Santa) and drawing him pictures ever since. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Madeline the Monkey's 4th Birthday Party!

Madeline had a blast at her fourth birthday party with 17 of her sweet friends! We celebrated our little girl at our house with a monkey-themed party -- Madeline's choice, no doubt inspired by stories she's heard about her first birthday! She truly is a monkey, with the calluses on her hands to prove it, earned by hanging from monkey bars and tree branches.

The day before her party, Madeline excitedly helped me bake the monkey bread and banana bread for her party. While she slept, I baked her monkey cake and cupcakes. We brought fifteen pounds of bananas home from the grocery store, as well as a box of animal crackers for each kid, and waited for our little guests to arrive for brunch. (Of course, the Bloody Marys and "Jungle Juice" was set up for all the mommy's and daddy's)...

Once again, the weather was a dream -- in the 70's and sunny -- we enjoyed the back deck while the kids ran around the back yard chasing the dog. Madeline wore her flower girl dress from her Aunt Mollie's wedding, while she happily played in the birdbath and lathered herself in chocolate frosting. The moments I love the most are the ones you can never plan: Madeline using a salad server to stuff mass amounts of egg casserole into her mouth from the buffet table (thankfully everyone had already eaten, so we let the birthday girl indulge), and Charlie carefully picking the marshmallow eyeballs off of an entire plate of monkey cupcakes.

This week, we will meet up with my family in Arkansas to visit my grandma, who Madeline affectionately calls, "The grandma with the white hair who's also named Madeline." Since I won't be near a computer on March 19th, the day she was actually born, please forgive my sentimental note that I hope she will read one day:

Madeline May, you burst into our lives four years ago just exactly as we always prayed for -- healthy and perfectly you...full of spunk, personality, strong opinions and gentle innocence. I used to sing, "Isn't She Lovely" to you every morning. Your dad and I love you so much more than you will ever be able to understand until you have your own children. Every day that I get to watch you grow, learn and just be your uninhibited self is a gift from God. Happy birthday, sweet little monkey!

A St. Louis Roadtrip!

Madeline, Charlie and I had a fabulous visit with my sister, Andi, and her husband, Kyle, in St. Louis. With a little help from our new car's DVD system (I love you Dora the Explorer, even if your shrill voice makes me want to poke my eyes out), the McDonald's playground and an bottomless supply of lollipops, we made the six-hour drive with hardly a peep or protest from the kids. They were total rockstars. It gave me great confidence that I could make more solo trips mid-week while Rob works hard to bring home the bacon.

It was so fun to see how Andi and Kyle have decorated their darling bungalow since their October wedding. Andi made delicious meals and won the kids' hearts with squeeze-able yogurts (they eat a box of eight in one sitting) and homemade cupcakes! We traveled on Tuesday and Thursday, so Wednesday was our only full day; we bundled up and visited the park that borders Andi and Kyle's neighborhood -- feeding the ducks, playing on the playground and going for a long walk. We wore Madeline and Charlie out completely -- in fact, minutes after we were home, Charlie passed out face-down on the living room ottoman. Each night when Kyle came home from work, the kids excitement level would ratchet up to new levels, and he was kind enough to indulge them with lots of tickling and silly play. I'm sure the neighbors could hear their happy squeals.

While we were gone, Rob painted our entryway and woodwork -- what a fun surprise to come home to! And boy were the kids happy to see their daddy. We loved our St. Louis visit -- it was so important to me to make the trip before my pregnancy limits travel, and truthfully, while our growing family still fits in Andi and Kyle's charming two-bedroom home. But not to worry -- there will be lots of future visits since the new baby won't know he or she is sleeping in a closet for at least a year!   

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Making Lemonade!

This morning, we walked by a lemon display at the grocery store and Madeline suggested that we make lemonade! As we squeezed lemons and dissolved the sugar, I realized I had never made it from scratch before.

The kids had so much fun peeling the stickers off the lemons, washing them and then transferring them between the pitcher and strainer for about 10 minutes like it was the most hilarious game in the world. While it cooled in the fridge, we went outside to play, then came back inside and sipped our sweet homemade treat.

It is truly spring here. The daffodils are in full bloom and we're running around in short sleeves. Last night, we roasted hot dogs with our neighbors well after the sun went down.

The gender differences between Mads and Charlie continue to amaze me. As Charlie rode around on his tricycle (wearing his puppy dog backpack), he stopped to pick up every rock, drag his hands through the dirt and exclaim, "More rocks, mommy!" Meanwhile Madeline layed on her belly in the grass, quietly humming to herself while she picked flowers and clovers.

But then again, maybe they aren't all that different after all; a little bit ago, Charlie told me he has a baby in his tummy. And Madeline's usually the one out there scratching in the mud, climbing trees and out-sprinting the older neighbor boys.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feeling Grateful

Shortly after we moved to Nashville, I realized I was short of breath. Friends and family would tell me that I was wheezing on the phone. As a former marathon runner, I sometimes felt a panicked lack-of-air during dance parties with the kids, and I would have to stop and take breaks during a morning stroll pushing the double stroller. I saw a doctor of internal medicine. He did a physical and told me maybe I had GIRD (I knew I didn't and moved on). Then I saw an allergist for six months. He told me I had asthma, so I tried five different medications; none of them worked. He told me subtly that the problem was psychological and has since written a kind and very humble note expressing regret.

In November, when I found out I was pregnant, my OB was alarmed by the sound of my breathing and referred me to a pulmonologist. Within minutes, he was sure the problem wasn't my lungs, but in my throat. He consulted his partners and sent me to an ENT. A week later, that doctor threaded a scope down my nose and pulled it out with a fascinated expression. "I've never seen anything like this in my 25 years of practice," he said, and referred me to a Harvard-educated specialist at Vanderbilt.

Last week, I had surgery on my throat. Scar tissue had closed 75% of my windpipe; it needed to be removed quickly while I was still in my second trimester to avoid the possibility of an emergency tracheotomy during labor or throughout the remainder of my pregnancy.  Andi dropped everything to watch the kids during my surgery and help me with my recovery. As I was wheeled into the OR, I was admittedly scared; scared for my baby of undergoing general anesthesia while pregnant; scared that I could be aware during the procedure (pregnant women don't receive some of the anesthesia drugs that other patients get); and scared of needing a tracheotomy during the procedure (the surgeon's parting words were that he hoped we wouldn't need one). The cause of the fibrosis is unknown, but the doctor thinks it's a fairly rare autoimmune disorder; it will continue to grow back every six months to two years.

But the operation was a huge success! The before and after photos are staggering; I was breathing through a straw and now my windpipe is wider than a quarter. Every breath I take feels deep -- I'm drawing so much more air and oxygen than I have in years. Breathing is exciting! I love going for walks and singing lullabies to the kids. There are so many silver linings that I feel incredibly grateful for. The greatest is that this experience put a mirror up to our lives and showed me what incredible and deep friendships we have made here in a short amount of time. People's generosity -- meals, flowers, cookies, babysitting, even popsicle deliveries! -- has affected us deeply and I hope I have the opportunity to repay everyone's kindness.

Southern Belle

Madeline and I had a very special Saturday morning. We sipped white truffle tea, wore elegant hats and nibbled on scones and cucumber sandwiches at the Savannah Tea House in downtown Nashville with a group of our mommy-daughter friends.

Madeline choose a red feathered hat and a dainty peacock teacup and saucer, then carefully dropped individual sugar cubes into her tea with tiny tongs. She was so intent on using ladylike manners ("Mommy, can I run here?")...until the sherbet came out after our finger sandwiches and then she slurped up hers and mine.

I told her it was a day I'll never forget, and I meant it. After sweet outings like that, for just a moment, it's fun to think forward about about proms, first dates, wedding showers, pedicures and back-to-school shopping trips. We have so much girly fun ahead, Miss Madeline May!

Choo Choo for the Two-Year-Old!

On Saturday afternoon, we had a small party to celebrate our little guy's second birthday. When Charlie woke up from his nap and saw his train cake set up on the dining room table, he literally gasped, then pointed at it all night long, saying "choo choo tayn take." Eventually, the temptation got the better of him and when no one was looking, he grabbed a blue fistful and smeared it around his face.

The weather was gorgeous, so the adults had a happy hour on the back deck until sunset; then everyone came in for Chicago-style hot dogs with all the fixin's...or at least all of them that we could find down South (no poppy seed hot dog buns or sport peppers around here).

We all sang happy birthday to Charlie and watched him spit all over the cake...I mean, blow out his candle. We were having so much fun, I completely forgot to open gifts, so we opened them in our pjs like it was Christmas morning the next day.

What a blast! Now we're all geared up for Madeline to turn four next month!

Charlie can't help himself!
A train named after Charlie!!

Playing with their new parachute from Papa and Ning