Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cowboy John's First Birthday Party

We had a big 'ol party at our dude ranch (um, front yard) to celebrate our little guy's first birthday! It was a blast. We had a great turnout and a fabulous mix of family, old friends that make life good and brand new friends that we've met here in Whitefish Bay. The day was perfect -- hot, but nice in the shade with a breeze.

John was irresistible wearing his smocked jon jon and cowboy hat; he smashed his cupcake with gusto and gave everyone a show. He was most happy sitting on Grandpa Tom's lap eating slice after slice of watermelon. We served Rob's pulled pork sandwiches, which he smoked through the night for 12 hours, with barbecue sauce he made from scratch and homemade sweet tea. I iced my almond cupcakes until 11pm the night before the party. Every child got a hat or bandana when they arrived, and they could decorate a cowboy vest that Aunt Nicki cut out of brown grocery sacks. The country music played and the stick-on mustaches eventually made their way out of their wrappers and onto everyone's faces. Ning even brought a real cowgirl who taught the kids how to rope steer (namely Maple and various guests); she grew up on a ranch out West and had rhinestones in her belt buckle. I put on my cowgirl boots for the party. All the kids were happy as clams splashing in the water, swinging and playing in the sandbox.

We were so touched that several of our dear friends made the trip north with their young children, and thrilled that the Martens could stay the night with us before Craig's sales meeting in Milwaukee the next morning. Rob's family arrived wearing head-to-toe western gear and got right to work. My dad and Ning brought the balloons and ice (what's a first birthday party without a giant cowboy boot mylar?).

It was a party -- one of my favorite ever! Happy birthday, John John!!!


A Note of Love to My Sweet One-Year Old

Baby John Thomas...You turned one three days ago. On the way to the hospital the morning you were born, we watched the sun rise out of our car window as we sped through the dawn like a bullet. It was brilliant and peaceful, bright orange as it popped over the horizon, and I told your daddy between contractions that it was a sign from God.

You are filled with effusive joy, and have such an easy nature, sweet disposition, and playful spirit. I love you so much I think it could crush me. And the kids love you that much too. Today you fell into a basket filled with toys -- your little legs were kicking up in the air. Madeline kissed you all over your face. And the other day while you were napping, I watched Charlie tickle your tummy and toes in a family photograph. You pretend to call DaDa on the phone, you put my giant purple Crocs on your little tiny feet, and I swear you repeated banana today when I offered you some. This afternoon, I looked up while I was folding laundry and you were staring at me from around the corner with a giant grin frozen on your face. I understood immediately that you were inviting me to play! So I dropped what I was doing and the next 15 minutes of peek-a-boo were an absolute delight. When I rock you in my arms at sleepy times, I pause every thought that enters my mind so that I can try to commit your little face to memory -- your long eyelashes and your flushed cheeks from playing all day. We can't get enough of you. I want a thousand of you.

Happy birthday, sweet boy.

John's First Steps!

Two weeks ago, John slid his foot forward and took four consecutive steps. Madeline and I were cheering him on like he was the front runner in the Kentucky Derby. He was so proud of himself that he threw his hands over his head. I love the tentative, bow-legged stance he takes while he thinks and thinks about sliding his foot forward. Usually, he takes one step and then plops down to his knees to crawl off like a lightening bolt. But sometimes, he pushes forward on those wobbly knees while we all hold our breath.

Congratulations, John! He's the third of three Vlach kids to "walk" right before his first birthday, and it's truly just as thrilling the third time as it was the first and second!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

34 Fabulous Years!

This year, I had one of the most wonderful birthdays of my life. My amazing husband treated me all day, and I was surrounded by family. Plus, it was the first time I've celebrated a birthday with my three children -- the greatest gifts of all!

I woke up to rain but it quickly turned to sunshine, which makes you appreciate the nice weather even more! We had a fun breakfast at a diner, where the waitstaff stuck a candle in a muffin and sang me a very enthusiastic Happy Birthday. An elderly woman behind us got so excited when she thought it was one of the kids' birthdays, and was considerably unimpressed when she realized it was mine, which totally cracked me up for some reason. I thought the serenade was fabulous! I felt like a five year old at Chuck E. Cheese.
A happy family! (Check out granny and gramps behind us)...
Next we opened gifts -- I received so many special things from the people I love. After an outdoor lunch in a part of town we hadn't explored yet, Rob surprised me with an hour-long massage and some quiet time to stroll with a coffee and window shop.

Rocking our matching hats! Mine was a gift from Mollie. 
That night we had a party! My dad and Ning came over with streamers, hats and banners, and decorated the house with the kids. After a dance party, champagne (grown ups),  hot dogs (children), and birthday cake, we put Madeline, Charlie and John to bed. Then, Rob treated us to an incredible lobster dinner with melted butter and fresh sweet corn. Amazing! Afterwards, Nancy sent us out for a night cap. Rob and I ended up walking to the restored movie theater by our house and having a glass of wine at the bar.

It was the perfect day to start Year 34. I have big plans!
Party animal.
Bring on the bubbly!

Why wouldn't we go get a drink here?

Sandbox Hero

Rob worked so hard to build the kids an amazing sandbox. It's big -- 8x4 feet, with bench seating around the edges. The other day, a truck came and emptied a yard of sand into it; the kids have barely stepped out since. Charlie was awake at his regular 5:45am, and by 6am he was dressed and, yep....you guessed it....in the sandbox! Madeline built castles (decorating them with flowers and seashells) for two hours before school this morning. John ate so much sand yesterday that I had to go get him a sippy cup to help wash it down.

Just about 15 minutes ago, Charlie said, "Daddy! Thank you for building me a sandbox! I was wishing for a sandbox!" What a great dad! You're our sandbox hero!

Jazz in the Park!

Tonight we went to Jazz in the Park with my dad and Ning in downtown Milwaukee's Cathedral Square. It was so much fun we can't wait to go every Thursday night! We spread our blanket right beside the playground, danced to the music, ate grilled corn (with Cajun seasoning) and battered chicken fingers, and sipped wine. It was a perfect night.

We lost Charlie for a little while, but the park officials were kind enough to bring him to us when they came upon the little guy watching the musicians just feet from the stage. (The first place I looked when he went missing was the row of Harleys near our camp). I tried packing the kids popsicles, but they were like juice in a bag by the time we pulled them out -- the kids were heartbroken because they had earned them for good behavior earlier in the day. Ning to rescue! She ordered a virgin frozen strawberry lemonade for the kids -- Popsicle in a Cup!  (She and I had the spiked version a little earlier).

 On our walk back to the car, Madeline and Charlie were so excited to see horse-mounted police officers. Charlie kept saying, "Police ride cars, not horses!"

Ten minutes after we left, we were back home, marveling that we have the city of Milwaukee and all its benefits at our fingertips, but that we live in Pleasantville down the street.

Never ever have these children needed a bath more -- between the barefoot walk back to the car, the playground sand, ketchup and popsicle juice, the bath water was actually gray. The dirtier the kid, the happier!
Scrubbing them down!

Grilled sweet corn with Cajun seasonings and Parmesan cheese