Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting Ready for Baby!

Our house is buzzing we're so excited to meet Baby number three! Today I'm 37 1/2 weeks pregnant; even though my due date isn't technically until June 13, Madeline and Charlie were both born at 38 1/2 weeks, so we're literally counting down the days...

Madeline and Charlie both tickle my belly, then quickly put their ears right up to my skin to see if they can hear the baby laughing. Charlie was confused for awhile and thought he had a baby in his belly too, but now, he's graduated to saying, "I a big boy. I not a baby anymore." He also calls refers to his new sibling as "my baby," which melts my heart. When Madeline draws family portraits, the mommy has a great big tummy, and this morning, we all took it a step further, drawing pictures on our bellies.

On Wednesday, after my check up (and the kids' weekly visit to Krispy Kreme with Rob), I took Madeline and Charlie to Centennial Hospital where they'll visit when the baby's born. We chatted with some sweet Vanderbilt student nurses, rode the elevator and peered through the window at the sleeping babies in the 6th floor OB nursery; Charlie kept begging me to lift him up to the window. On our way out, we stopped in the gift shop for a 20 cent lollipop.

Each of them also went on a special date to pick out a small gift for the baby when it comes home. Charlie puts the soft blue elephant rattle he chose up to my stomach and tries to insert it in my belly button like a credit card or a coin slot. Madeline was inspired by wrapping the toy and pacifiers she picked out, and now goes through a roll of Scotch tape a week, wrapping random things around the house as "gifts" for the baby -- half-used tablets of paper, dog toys, baby paraphernalia that's been dug out of bins and is ready to be washed.

And yes, I've been washing everything in sight. Hard. Core. Nesting. The strollers are scrubbed, the fridge disinfected, the crib bleached, the baby clothes washed...and that's just four items on a three-page-list I've been chipping away at for weeks. The bouncy chairs, swing and bassinet have been washed in Dreft and are ready to rock and jiggle this little baby to sleep (hopefully...).

If the baby came tonight, we'd be ready. But I'm grateful for each extra day that I have to prepare (and would prefer that it wait until Rob's home from Chicago where he's standing up in a very special wedding). We just can't wait to meet this little person and know his or her personality. Even though I feel the baby's every movement now, it's still hard to imagine that he or she is really in there until I hear its cry, look in its eyes and hold it in my arms. It's like waiting for Christmas morning when you're a kid. Only a million times better.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Picking!

Yesterday, we went to a local farm to pick strawberries. All four of us had so much fun -- it is one of my favorite family memories! The plants were heavy with beautiful ripe fruit that tasted like candy.

Madeline was so excited, filling her bucket with enthusiasm and gusto. "Daddy, there are more over here!" she would shriek, so Rob would run over to her side. They were berry-picking buddies and I just loved her pride as she would hold up an especially big or red one for us to see.

Charlie filled a good portion of his bucket too...until he realized how good the fruit tasted. Then he  ran out of the patch, crouched under a shady tree and ate every single berry he had picked for the previous 30 minutes. Juice was streaming down his wrists, elbows and chin. When the last berry was eaten, he contentedly said, "I all done." Then (no joke), laid down in the grass, folded his hands behind his head and popped his knee. I asked the farmer's wife to ring us up for an extra pound when we checked out in the barn. It reminded me of a story I've heard about myself as far back as my memories go about eating myself sick in a strawberry patch when I was Madeline's age.

We came home with a six foot tomato plant, two beach ball size heads of lettuce (we waited while the farmer plucked them out of the ground) and two cucumber plants (we actually thought we were buying cucumbers themselves. I later found them "planted" by little hands in our flower bed, roots half in and out of the ground, lying on their sides).

Every night at dinner, the kids chant in a sing-song voice, "Thank you Mommy for this delicious dinner" -- a sweet tradition that Rob began with Madeline starting probably a year ago. Yesterday, as we drove home, we heard Charlie say from the back seat, "Thank you for these delicious vegetables." But Madeline, who interprets Charlie-speak for me, was sure he was actually thanking us for turtles.

Whether he was grateful for the vegetables, strawberries or turtles, I cherished the morning we spent together.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Surprise Shower!

Yesterday, I was kidnapped for the entire afternoon by two my dear friends, Elise and Paige, for the most fabulous surprise baby shower!

When Elise pulled up at my house, I was outside playing in the rain with Madeline and Charlie, wearing comfy Saturday clothes that were perfect for dropping off boxes at Goodwill earlier that morning. It took me several minutes to realize her visit wasn't just a fun drop in to say hello! I ran inside, put on a dress, a sparkly necklace and plugged in my curling iron. After giving my sweet family big hugs and kisses, Elise and I zipped off for a surprise adventure.

We pulled into a fun restaurant, Boxwood Bistro, where my friend Paige was waiting with balloons and a beautifully decorated table. We had a wonderful lunch -- talking and laughing and opening their thoughtful gifts for so long that my friends had to feign restroom visits to secretly call the nail spa and bump our appointments until later!

I felt so pampered when I realized we were getting pedicures. Rob, who the girls had been talking to leading up to the big day, sneaked some of my nail polishes into my purse so I can do touch ups at home (because seriously....what is more important than perfectly pedicured toes in the delivery room?). After a quick detour through TJMaxx Home Goods (heaven), we went to The Puffy Muffin, an adorable local place for decaf lattes and an incredible dessert.

I live for surprises! So to be whisked away by two people who are so special to me was incredible. It felt lovely to slow down and really celebrate the baby that is about to forever our lives in the most wonderful way. I feel blessed beyond compare. Truly.

Mother's Day 2011

My sweet family planned a perfect and relaxing Mother's Day last weekend. Rob wanted me to sleep in, but Charlie had other plans....his little voice is so irresistible in the morning, cuddling and clobbering me awake with his stuffed puppy and  bear, that I turned on the light and finished a book (after Rob sweet-talked him downstairs). A little while later, the house was quiet....everyone burst back in with a Starbuck's latte and a dozen beautiful roses, which Madeline handed to me saying, Happy Mother's Day. It already felt like it couldn't get any better.

We had a nice morning at church, and then went to an adorable southern restaurant in downtown Franklin we had never tried before called Dumplin's. Both kids took naps, which meant Rob and I had some relaxed downtime; when the kids woke up, we all played outside in the beautiful sunshine. After Madeline and Charlie fell asleep that night, Rob made me a delicious dinner -- a new variation of shrimp and grits with fresh sweet corn that tasted like I was truly eating in a private restaurant.
It is such a privilege to be Madeline and Charlie's mom. They are tiny people who I genuinely enjoy spending my time with -- their humor, joy, wonder, sense of adventure and lack of self-conscious inhibitions remind me to enjoy every moment. Even the ones where I'm giving time outs, wiping bums or pouring spilled milk out of my purse.

I always think about my own beautiful mom on Mother's Day too. I credit her loving example with so much of what feels instinctual to me. I'm blessed to be surrounded by other incredible women who guide and nurture, like Ning and Sandie. And I'm fortunate to have a husband who offers praise and encouragement every day as I navigate motherhood....the most important job and honor I'll ever have.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Visit from Ning

We were so excited to have a quick, but extremely fun visit last week with my stepmom Nancy, who we all call Ning! She had meetings with a Caterpillar dealer three hours from us in Knoxville, TN, so we were thrilled that she could build some extra time into her visit.

Within seconds of her arrival, Madeline was ransacking her purse for magic jelly beans. And the Magic Jelly Bean Fairy never disappoints -- Madeline just can't believe the enchanted stash that's always hidden away in zippers, wallets and sunglass cases just waiting to be found.

Charlie called Nancy, "My Ning" her entire stay, and dragged her to sit in the parked car with him, pretending to drive to the Donut Store, making all the engine noises little boys seem to have wired into their DNA. The next day, Ning appeared with a box of Krispy Kreme. Ecstatic, exuberant, over-the-top delight sort of describes how happy he was.

Madeline couldn't figure out where Papa was...she kept asking if he was still sleeping. Ning treated the kids to bubble baths, milk shakes and bed time stories. And she treated Rob and me to fabulous company and a lovely dinner (plus stocked our freezer to more delicious meals). What a great visit!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Edisto Island, South Carolina!

Our little family of four had a magical and romantic nine-day vacation on Edisto Island in South Carolina's Low Country, where all the trees are covered in Spanish moss and our biggest decision was what to have for lunch. My aunt and uncle were very generous to lend us their beautiful beach house a short three-block walk from the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was perfect, and we practically had the entire beach to ourselves every day. We had so much fun, we didn't even mind (much) that someone "borrowed" our credit card numbers to buy video game systems or that our tire blew out.

The first time Madeline explored the beach in Gulf Shores, AL, I was moved to tears observing her two-and-a-half year-old wonder. Charlie was only six-months old at the time, so on this trip, it moved me to tears all over again watching his wide open eyes and excited gasps as he experienced the waves and sand for the first time in his young memory.

The vacation was restorative in every way -- we were all so worn out from full days of shell-hunting, jumping in the waves, walking the beach, building sand castles, strolling for ice-cream, eating seafood and playing on the playground -- that we slept hard and returned home rested and relaxed. We walked everywhere -- now that I'm eight-months pregnant, Charlie and I are moving about the same pace, so it worked out perfectly.
One of the highlights was Easter morning! The bunny knew where to find us, and after opening Easter baskets and hunting for eggs, we went to a service at the Island's gorgeous little white Presbyterian church, built in the 1600's. All the babies wore jon jons, the boys and men had on seer-sucker suits and bow ties, and almost every woman wore pearls and Lily Pulitzer. We dusted beach sand off our legs and hid in the balcony wearing Reefs and North Face, but people actually went out of their way to welcome us warmly.

We loved the shrimp boil Rob made us for dinner one night, with sausage from Savannah, fresh sweet corn, red potatoes and cornbread. And we had our first ever family movie night! The kids loved Milo & Otis about a runaway puppy and kitten -- Charlie cracked us up narrating throughout, saying things like, "Oh no!, " "Oh my gosh!" and "Poor Titty Tat."

Of course we couldn't miss the royal wedding, which was right up Madeline and my alley. When I told Madeline that Kate was a real live princess, she asked me if William was the beast. (Later, when we were watching the Kentucky Derby back in Nashville and Madeline saw all the hats, she asked if someone was getting married!).

Our beach trip ended this Spring's travel spree through the Midwest and the South. Now I'm sticking close to home just in case this baby wants to show up early -- doctor's orders. We're so grateful for each trip and the people we've gotten to visit with over the last two months. As we drove back from South Carolina, I felt a wonderful, tingling sensation...full scale nesting that began with bleaching the refrigerator and sweeping out the garage.We already can't wait for our next family vacation next summer when the newest member of our family is one!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Visiting Daddy (Insert Happy Squeal!)

My OB appointments are coming fast and furious, and since they're around the corner from Caterpillar's offices in downtown Nashville, the kids get so excited to see their daddy every other week! Rob takes Madeline and Charlie to Krispy Kreme or to the park (now that it's nice out) to feed the ducks for my 45-minute check up. They pick me back up happy, covered in sprinkles and wearing their donut hats.

Two weeks ago, we wiped the chocolate icing off their faces and went into Rob's office to visit daddy's work and meet his new boss. They had a blast, but we quickly scooped them up and ushered them back onto the elevator when Charlie started wildly swiveling in Rob's chair and Madeline starting noticing candy jars on co-workers desks.

I love that even if Rob's had a hard day, he always acts enthusiastic around the kids and conveys how much he enjoys his work. And it's fun connecting the track-type tractors and backhoe loaders that we see alongside the road with the place where daddy goes every day. I often hear Madeline tell Charlie, "Daddy works so hard because he loves us soooo much."

BroCo 2011

Mid-April, we spent a long weekend on our fourth annual trip to Brown County, IN, with some of our closest college friends (my Delta Gamma girls) and their families -- eight adults and eight-and-three-quarters kids. It was a blast watching Madeline, Ella, Cassidy and Kainoa play together like they live on the same street, even though everyone traveled from Chicago, Toledo, Louisville and Nashville. The younger set -- Charlie, Gavin, Makaoi and Brady -- was hilarious too, sharing especially well considering they're all between one and two years old.
The kids played duck-duck-goose, hunted for toads in the pond, played football with the dads and "swam" daily in the hot tub in between art projects and naps. We took turns making family-style dinners for the group, and when the kids would all crash at night, the adults enjoyed our grown-up time. The cabin we rent is on the market for a cool million bucks, so it's pretty nice (understatement). The guys sat around the fire pit, listening to music or playing poker (with the occasional cigar), while the girls curled up on the couches and talked like we were still in college (only instead of discussing who we were taking to Barndance or how we were going to get through finals, we laughed about potty training and caught up in detail on the day-to-day of each others' lives -- hard to do in 10-minute phone snippets from home).

We stayed up way too late and woke up way too early, but I wouldn't trade the time we spend together each year for anything. It nourishes me. And since Jaime, Tara, Erin and I all met our husbands during our college years, our group of eight has known each other and hung out for almost 15 years. The Haru pack is moving from Louisville to Charlotte our annual BroCo trip may move to a new location, but it will still be on the 2012 calendar.

Writing about these friends makes me realize that in the Christmas crunch, I never wrote about the first moms-only trip we took to Florida in November last year. We were heartbroken that Tara wasn't able to make it last minute, but Jamie, Erin and I soaked up the sun and went for long walks on the beach, taking a much needed mental break before we returned fully refreshed to no-rest-for-the-weary job as Mommy.

Whoa Mama!

I was so excited to have my dear friend, Erica, who I've mentioned is a skilled professional photographer, take the most incredible and meaningful maternity photos of me during her recent visit from Chicago. She did my hair and make up, brought gorgeous jewelry for the shoot, and had so many amazing ideas for how to capture my belly during this special time. I love being pregnant (a little scary for my husband since I never want to stop being pregnant) and am so happy to have a tiny bit of the wonder of it all recorded on film for my kids to see one day. We even did a boudoir shoot! I will treasure these shots forever, and since I didn't take pictures with my other pregnancies (okay, full disclosure: Rob and I tried once but there aren't even words for how ridiculous they turned out), this photoshoot represents all three of my sweet babies.

Erica rocked it, standing on ladders, suggesting outfit changes and even taking shots in front of one of my mom's abstract paintings. We laughed until we cried at moments that might otherwise have been embarrassing...but our friendship and Erica's confidence behind the lens made it easy to feel like a suburban Heidi Klum for an hour in Rob's button down shirt. What fun!

Thank you so much, Erica!