Thursday, January 26, 2012

Milwaukee Bound!

 After 3 1/2 amazing years in Nashville, we received the news we knew would come but that we didn't expect quite so soon. Rob accepted a new role with Caterpillar in Milwaukee, effective March 1, just a few weeks from now. And so our newest adventure awaits....

We are so excited to be near family again! My dad and Ning were just transferred to Milwaukee in August. And Rob's family, as well as so many dear friends, will be within two hours of our doorstep! We're looking forward to living in a walkable village along Lake Michigan -- we'll house hunt in early February. Rob will cover the entire state of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula as outside sales rep for Cat Financial. It's kind of his dream job.

But we're so sad to leave our friends, neighbors and way of life here in Nashville. Our roots grew deep in a short time -- we'll carry many of our friendships through life. My girlfriends brought meals after my surgery, hosted a baby shower for John and even folded my husband's underwear (now that's a good friend). They took care of us in the special way they do down here. Rob and I both felt like honorary "suthenas" almost instantly. Now shrimp and grits are in our weekly rotation, I've photocopied recipes from the Baton Rouge Junior League cookbook, and been entrusted with a Mississippi family recipe for sour cream pound cake.

We're preparing for the cold -- our down coats, waterproof mittens and snow boots have already arrived in the mail! The next five weeks will fly by at warp speed. But we're going to enjoy and appreciate every minute until then...

Catching up: A Magical Christmas 2011!

An instant classic!
The holidays flew by! While it's still January, I'll try to catch up on some of last month's highlights:

Chapter I

We had a great time celebrating with Rob's parents and sister in Nashville. Thanksgiving morning was a sunny 65 degrees -- we dropped a turkey in our neighbor's fryer and planted daffodil bulbs before the first frost. When it came time to prepare our feast, we walked into the kitchen and popped the prepared Publix meal in the oven! As I peeled back cellophane from the Publix containers, I joked that I was slaving over a hot stove. I adore cooking for the people I love, and so does Rob, but this year with three kids so young, we decided to skip straight to the eating, enjoying and pie. Sandie and Nicki made Gram's amazing rice pudding, so we had a touch of homemade at the table, and it felt like she was there with us.

Two days later, Santa came early! We wanted to be able to celebrate together before the Vlachs had to head back home, so we woke up to a Christmas brunch and opened gifts listening to Christmas carols and sipping eggnog. We videotaped the kids coming down the stairs, still so early in the morning that it was pitch dark.

In the days leading up to our "Early Christmas," Rob, Sandie and I gently restored the dollhouse my mom built for me when I was five years old, washing its walls and carefully gluing the little Victorian back together. It's a tiny time capsule of where we lived in 1983 with it's wallpaper and linoleum floors! Now that I have a daughter, I love imagining my mom making it for me...probably building it in the evenings when I was asleep. Madeline's face lit up as she peeked under the sheet it was hiding underneath on Christmas morning. The rooms were decorated with darling wood furniture and a family of dolls.

Charlie was so enchanted with it too that it took another 15 minutes before he noticed the train table waiting for him! Then Christmas was in full swing -- the wrapping paper flew as Madeline, Charlie and John (well sort of John...he was napping) opened all the special gifts their Grammy, Grandpa and Aunt Nicki brought for them!

Chapter II
My dad, Nancy, Mollie, Kenny, Andi and Kyle all flew to Nashville to celebrate Christmas 2011! We stayed in updated Civil War-era cabins on the gorgeous Samary Plantation just 20 minutes from our house in Franklin. In the mornings, there was still fog settled in the hills. The kids loved feeding the horses carrots and apples several times a day. Charlie still talks about how his favorite was the "bossy" one that nipped all the other horses so he could hog the snacks; Madeline named him Sam.
We did all the things that have become our treasured family traditions: wore matching pajamas, ate a candlelight lobster feast on Christmas eve, sang Christmas carols followed by a raucous dance party (think kids flying and my dad rocking out to Lady Gaga). The kids were delighted that Santa found us again! We played football, went for hikes, visited the stables and had wonderful meals every night. One day the men all went out to a hunting range and practiced hitting targets (can you tell we're in the South?), and the ladies all went for sushi and mani/pedis. We laughed nonstop for five days, enjoying the rare opportunity to be all together. It was a magical, memorable Christmas....John John's first!
Serious weirdos

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Madeline May!

Madeline will be five in March and is acting more and more like a real big kid! She really is a little mommy to her brothers. She loves to mix up John's baby food and feed him, and this morning, she changed Charlie's diaper and helped him get dressed. Then she proudly said, "Okay, you're all set, little buddy!" She also gets herself ready every day. She looks fabulous, even when she's wearing two different hair bows, leggings with a ripped out knee (her favorites) and a summer dress over a black turtleneck. And she's like an artistic MacGyver, creating elaborate art projects out of random things she finds in the yard and around the house.

No one can make John laugh like Madeline! He will literally shriek with laughter when I ask her to keep him busy while I finish making dinner. She's inquisitive and whip smart -- it's getting harder and harder to talk in code, and the meaning of things doesn't always fly over her head anymore. For example, she loves the song Humble Me by Norah Jones and asks me to sing it to her as a lullaby some nights. But lately she's started picking up on the grown-up lyrics and I end up navigating some pretty tricky questions like, "Why did Ms. Norah say he kicked the bottle?" and "Why doesn't baby Theresa know who her daddy is?" (Now I ad-lib words or hum certain bits). Her nickname has been Mimi since she was born, but it really took off when it was the only way Charlie could say her name awhile back. Now it's taken on a life of it's own -- Charlie almost always calls her Meems or Meemers.

This fall, I had a ball going with Madeline on her school field trip to the local Owl Hills nature sanctuary. I left the boys with a sitter and we enjoyed a special mother-daughter morning together, taking a hay ride, picking out a pumpkin and looking at animal tracks through the woods with all her little school friends. With preschool has come potty talk in all its glory. Which, of course, Charlie thinks is hilarious. So rarely an hour goes by when the two of them aren't giggling their heads off, changing the words to their favorite theme songs. Take Mickey Mouse. It's reduced to Mee-ska, Moo-ska, Mickey Poopoo. Or a playful back and forth calling each other smelly socks, stinky toots to Mr. DooDoo. Sigh.

At bedtime each night, I stand at her door and we pretend to blow hundreds of air kisses at each other, then frantically try to catch them. We imagine the kisses are sparkling and look like butterflies as they pass between us. Before I close her door, I always say, "God bless you" and I tell her that I love everything about her. Because I do.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Charlie, Charlie, Bo Barlie!

Charlie is hilarious these days! He'll be three in February, and is at that incredible age where he's bursting with imagination and personality, totally unchecked by inhibition. His vocabulary is exploding, he's potty training, and he lives in his firefighter outfit. I keep a running list of the things he says and does throughout our days together. Here are some fun ones:
  • Sometimes when he bursts through a door from outside, he yells, "Ta Da!!!! I'm here!"
  • He wore Rob's tie to Publix yesterday. It practically dragged along the floor in front of him.
  • We recently went to a pirate-themed birthday party; Charlie came home with a pirate patch, hat, sword and hook. Now he asks me for his "Arr" stuff when he's looking for his pirate gear.
  • At the end of a playdate, Charlie wrapped his arms around his pal Grant and said, "You're my best friend."
  • Charlie sings and performs his own original songs on the guitar. Check it out.
  • Charlie ran around the house with one of my purses and told Rob, "This is my race car purse." Poor kid. He's 100% boy, but heavily influenced (and a little confused) by his accessory-loving mom and big sis.
  • It's been months since he slept in a bed. Every nap and bedtime, he sleeps on a blanket spread out on the floor. At night, I always pop my head in each of the kids rooms to see them sleeping. Sometimes his limp body won't even allow the door to open more than a few inches. Or I'll find half of him tucked under his rocker with a monster truck in his hand.
  • He regularly tells his mama I'm "bootiful" and reminds me to put in earrings if I forget. The other day he told me my lips were beautiful when I wore lipstick. Keep that up, bud, and you'll make a girl very happy one day.
  • At Costco, he tried to hand something to our checkout clerk, and said, "Here you go, Person!" He also tried to get the attention of our clerk at Publix and said, "Hi, Man." (We're working on addressing people as sir and ma'am. We have a little ways to go....)
  • Charlie and I sometimes go to Starbuck's for one-on-one dates. He pulled at my neckline one day and said unexpectedly and quite loudly, "John's food!"
  • One afternoon at Barnes & Noble, he was having so fun playing and got so caught up in the moment that he ripped off his shirt. Then later, while he was having a cookie at the cafe, he told me his feet were playing while he kicked and tapped his chair.
  • New friends came over for a playdate. Charlie was being a little gentleman/host and said, "You want some crackers? That's how it goes!" with the cutest hand gesture I've ever seen. 
  • Charlie said he wanted John to be a turkey for Halloween. Later he told Rob he wanted a turkey for a snack. We both thought he was getting really into the Thanksgiving spirit until we realized he was actually saying cookie.
  • He's picking up expressions, but doesn't always know how to use them. Me: Charlie, do you want socks under your rain boots? Charlie: No. That's not the reason. Or he'll say, "I blessed" instead of "I sneezed." The sheer adorable-ness makes it impossible to correct him.
  • He's also still pretty confused about units of time. Everything's always "two days" or "three minutes." 
  • At breakfast, Charlie swiped my egg right off my plate. He told me his cut up pieces of egg needed an egg-mommy.
  • In one of my favorite videos of John, Charlie is telling his baby brother how much he loves he hugs him so violently that John starts crying pretty hard.
  • Charlie clears his plate after meals whenever he remembers (or I remember to remind him). But instead of putting them in the sink, he usually just throws everything in the trash -- fork, cup and plate.
  • I tried to start a tv show for the kids, and like usual, I couldn't find the remotes. Not expecting an answer, I asked them if they knew where they were. Charlie told me they were in my rain boots in the garage. And they were.
  • He pretends to read things. He looked at Rob's Illini shirt and said (while running his fingers over the letters), "I love Daddy to the rescue!"
  • And the checkmate. He's figured out that he can come out of his room during nap-and-bed-time if he sits on the potty. He knows that when I find him stripped down naked, doing a Number Two, I can't do anything but praise him, even though he's supposed to be fast asleep.