Monday, August 06, 2018

Welcome to the world, Anderson Caldwell

Anderson Caldwell Reese was born on May 24, 2018 at 5:28 in the evening. He weighed 9 pounds 5 ounces and was 22 inches long. 

 And I'll be honest:  I don't remember every little detail of his arrival. (It happened over a month ago, and in the midst of postpartum chaos, writing his birth story was swept aside. And so, apparently, was the little notebook where I wrote down what time they broke my water, when I got the epidural, etc.) So.  In an effort to record what I do remember, and to give Anderson his due, I'm resurrecting this forgotten corner of the web, where I used to dutifully write down all of our family memories.

Let me start by saying that this was my hardest pregnancy, and by far the delivery I had the most anxiety about. Because of the sadness that came from experiencing my miscarriage almost three years ago, and because I've watched quite a few people I love beyond measure struggling to have children of their own with no happy ending, when I found out I was expecting a little one, I went into this pregnancy vowing to not complain. I wanted to appreciate the miracle my body was performing.  After mourning the loss of a little heartbeat I'd seen ticking away on an ultrasound, complaining about the obnoxious parts of the experience this time around seemed so ungrateful. And even though it totally was, I still complained. Partly because being pregnant just isn't my favorite way to be, and partly because about halfway through my pregnancy I started to experience pretty much constant pain. It hurt to stand. It hurt to walk. It helped somewhat to sit down, but then hurt more when I stood back up. I went from an active lifestyle to basically a pretty sedentary life, and it was, for lack of a better word, awful. I was experiencing the full-blown side effects of what were later diagnosed as vaginal varicosities. And, lucky me, the midwife who confirmed my self-diagnosis (thanks, Google!) said they were the worst case she'd ever seen. If you're one of the poor souls who encounters this dark, unspoken of part of pregnancy, it puts you in a precarious position. It's a pretty awkward thing to bring up when people ask how you're doing. People are expecting responses about heartburn and fatigue, not details about the state of your vagina. I told people I was close to, but it wasn't something I was publicly announcing on social media or in person everywhere I went.

It still feels like an equally awkward thing for me to publicly write about, and I debated leaving this whole section out. But the thing is, when I was going through the trauma, I was so appreciative of all of the women who were honest about their experiences online. It helped me feel so much less alone, and it answered so many questions for me. So if you're another unlucky mommy reading this post, crying at two in the morning, I am so so sorry. Feel free to read the following advice (and if you're not such an unfortunate mama, feel free to skip to the next paragraph):  1) Buy a v-supporter. They sell them on Amazon. Buy it right now. I waited until the last five weeks of pregnancy, at which point it felt like a waste of money, especially if it didn't work, but by that point I was so desperate I didn't care anymore. It helped me tremendously. It didn't make the problem go away or even get better, but I could stand up long enough to make my kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without crying. And that was progress.  My bum looked pretty lumpy in everything I wore the last month of my pregnancy, but vanity was pretty much dead at that point anyway. 2) Be forgiving of yourself and be willing to let things go. This is incredibly hard for me, and I wish I'd done a better job willingly embracing a messy house, take out, and too much TV time. 3) Believe that this issue will resolve itself! For most women it goes completely away within six weeks post-partum. This has been my experience. I read so many online forums while struggling with this issue, and sometimes that's a very dangerous thing. There are rare cases where the problem persists, but remind yourself that statistics are in your favor and you don't need to unnecessarily worry--there are probably enough other things keeping you up at night.

OK. Back to baby Anderson.

Because I have a history of being a small framed woman who delivers monster babies, they did a weight check ultrasound at 38 weeks. And little boy was showing at 9 pounds. I've heard so many women say, "My body is made to deliver big babies." Well, I've decided that my body is not made to deliver big babies; it just does it anyway.  Having torn terribly with my first two deliveries, and knowing I already needed pelvic floor reconstructive surgery, I was really hoping for a little guy this time around. It looked like that was not in the cards, and I was a basket case. (Again, don't read online forums in the middle of the night.) I talked with the nurse midwife at my appointment the next day who said they would not induce until week 39. I wasn't dilated at all, which meant baby was not coming on his own any time soon, but I was still hopeful labor would start on its own. I'd experienced induction with Kaden, and the experience of laboring at home with Everett had been much more pleasant (no one telling me not to eat, no IV tethering me to a hospital bed, and lots of distractions). Together we devised a plan for me to come in the following week, have them strip my membranes, and schedule an induction for later in the week in case I didn't go into labor on my own.

Then I went home to walk. And bounce on a yoga ball. And climb stairs. Convinced I would go into labor naturally over the weekend. Spoiler alert:  I did not.

 Instead I came in to see Dr. Jacobs on Tuesday morning, exactly 39 weeks pregnant. He stripped my membranes, his nurse told me, "When he does it it usually works," and I waltzed out of the office convinced I'd go into labor within 24 hours (just like I did with Everett!), but with a Thursday morning induction set up just in case.  Spoiler alert #2: I did not.

So. On Thursday morning, I ate a scrambled egg breakfast, and Chad and I checked into the hospital at 6 a.m. ready to meet our baby.

Our moms joined us a little later. The big boys were thrilled to stay with Uncle Cameron.

With Chad, my mom, and Joy in the delivery room, I had a whole delivery team fanning me, rubbing my feet, and helping my back labor with counter pressure. And it was really special to have both of Anderson's grandmothers in the room to meet him right after he was born.

Everett's delivery had been a super quick three push/laugh the baby out affair, and I expected Anderson's to be the same. He took a little more work; it wasn't anything I couldn't handle though, and he arrived just a smidgen before 5:30 in the evening, my biggest baby boy, with a full head of dark hair, a chubby little face, and blue eyes that we're still crossing our fingers will stay that way. I had the instant euphoria of pure love for him There really is nothing like meeting your newborn for the first time.

I could not have asked for a better labor and delivery nurse. I was truly blessed with the best. She let me order a lemon Italian ice right before my epidural (which was not as tasty as the California burrito Chad downed right in front of me, but was better than nothing), and looked the other way when I sucked on butter rum lifesavers, jolly ranchers, and drank water during labor.  She listened to all of my fears about potentially tearing beyond repair, and suggested things we could do to minimize tearing. And the things totally worked! (I'm not sure why these things weren't suggested with my previous two babies, and I'm trying not to feel too bitter about it.) I ended up with a second degree tear as opposed to a fourth degree, and without making the problems already needing correcting any worse. My recovery has also been much smoother this go around.

Uncle Cameron brought the big brothers to meet the new addition later that night, and he was an instant hit.  

We bummed around in the hospital for two nights and three days. (Anderson had some jaundice and low blood sugar that needed to be monitored.) The hospital is almost brand new, and was super swanky for a postpartum experience. While we were there, I had Chad pick up some much needed sushi from my favorite joint to celebrate no longer being pregnant. My friend Jamie brought me some sushi one day, too.

I enjoyed lots of peaceful, quiet,baby snuggles.

And at some point we begged the nurse to come give Anderson his first bath. When Everett met him for the first time, he said, "I think he has some sand in his hair . . . "

And we had some special visitors drop in to meet Anderson, too. I went to visit this little nugget the day after she was born in the same hospital!I'm so glad her mama brought her by to hold her new buddy:

And my sweet friend Shantel brought chocolate one night and snuggled this guy in our quiet hospital room.

Grandma stayed with us the second night, while Daddy went home to be with the big boys, and gave Anderson his first manicure. He was born with some lethal fingernail weapons, so it was very much needed.

My friend Christine came to take some "fresh 48" photos of Anderson before we left the hospital. In my completely unbiased opinion, all of our boys have been beautiful, but I think we're going out on a high note. Don't tell your brothers, Anderson, but you're our cutest newborn!

Before we knew it, it was time to head home--where sadly there was no 24 hour room service waiting. We rolled Anderson a few doors down before we left, so we could all meet the Barnes family's newest arrival, baby Vivian. So fun to deliver in the same hospital so close to the same day!

Anderson, you were the missing piece. We are so thankful you came to our family!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dear Yellow Cottage on the Corner,

For five years, we've called you home, building memories within your cozy walls. You've been so good to us, and suddenly I'm crying thinking about saying goodbye.  This weekend, we will move the last of our boxes and belongings from your rooms.  I'll sweep up whatever dust bunnies are lurking in forgotten corners, and a new family will fill you up with the mixture of laughter and heartache that makes a life.  I hope you know that I will never forget you.  How could I?

It was here that we built a new life in a new place.  The first city we called home together that we really felt we could put down roots and stay awhile.  You are the first home Everett has ever known, and the first home Kaden will remember.

We sweat through project after project making you truly ours, so much so that I doubt your original owner would recognize you.  We spent hours painting and polishing you, tearing you apart, and building you back up.  Perhaps that's part of why saying goodbye stings just a bit more than I expected.    

We watched fireflies dance through the woods outside your kitchen window on summer nights; we watched quiet snow blanket the same scene in winter, while we nibbled beignets and drank cocoa.

Here we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, orchestrated games of hide-and-go-seek, baked cookies, listened to rain storms, knelt in family prayer, read books curled up on the floor.

We cried here, a time or two--our faith growing while we shouldered some big burdens--but mostly we laughed and smiled, smiled and laughed.  I'm thankful for every tear and every giggle.  Every sadness and every joy.  Thank you, house.  Thank you.

With Love and Appreciation,

A Sentimental Mommy

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Tips for Reforming Picky Eaters

Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that despite my ongoing love affair with beautiful food, my kids prefer processed garbage to the majority of awesome that comes out of my kitchen.  It's been a source of frustration and heartbreak for me, but also a constant source of humor for our family (and anyone else who will listen to our tales from the food battlefield).  Case in point:  Everett once announced at the dinner table that he would rather smell his hand than the food laid before him.  As the family chef, you don't get a better self-esteem boost than that, and yet it was so hysterical when he said it that I had to leave the room, so he wouldn't hear me laugh.

We've made some extreme progress with six-year-old Kaden, and I have high hopes that Everett will eventually outgrow this painful stage of poor eating.  Tonight, when I made this salmon in lemon garlic sauce, Kaden actually expressed excitement about dinner: 

If this isn't the look of progress, I don't know what is:

The Honest Company inspired me to post about how I ensure my children get appropriate nutrition and encourage healthy eating for our entire family.  In a lot of ways, this is probably a case of the blind leading the blind, but if I can help some poor soul struggling out there in the void, I'd love to do my part.  Chad and I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way that have genuinely helped both of our boys improve their poor palettes, and helped us maintain our sanity.  

Tip One:  Limit snacking after 3 p.m.  

This is such a no-brainer but SO HARD.  You know how everyone always talks about the terror of the "witching hour?"  Supposedly, most families only have one measly hour of whiny, tired kids at the end of a long day, that also perfectly coincides with meal preparation.  I don't know about you, but in our house it's more like witching HOURS.  I've noticed that when I limit my kiddos' snacking in the late afternoon, they are magically more hungry for dinner.  Not surprisingly, they are more tempted by healthy food when they aren't stuffed with goldfish crackers and granola bars.

Tip Two:    Let children participate in meal planning and preparation.  

When children are vested in the dinner process, sometimes it leads to them being more keen to participate in eating the end result.  Emphasis on sometimes.  But sometimes is better than no time at all, right?  When it comes to food battles, there is no shame in rejoicing over small victories!  My children both love to help me in the kitchen.  On grocery trips, I try to talk up all of the beautiful qualities of foods that aren't their favorites--"Smell this cilantro!  Doesn't that smell delicious?  It makes me want to cook with it!"  or "I love the beautiful orange of this butternut squash.  Do you like orange?  It's one of my favorite colors.  We should try roasting this for dinner.  What do you think?"  

Tip Three:  Don't give up.  Try the same food in different ways.

Just because your little guy turned his nose up at steamed broccoli, doesn't mean he won't love it roasted.  (My kids are living proof of this!)  Maybe raw carrots make your daughter gag, but she will gobble up the softer, cooked version.  Also, I think it's so important not to offer your children an escape route.  I give my kids pretty much free choice (within a healthy framework) of what to eat for breakfast and lunch.  I plan dinner, and that's what they are eating.  It's OK if something is not their favorite, but they aren't getting a kid-approved second entree choice because 1) that's too much work for me, and 2) this is the only way I will ever introduce them to new foods and flavors. 

Vitamins are another helpful way to ensure you and your children are getting the essential nutrients you need.  The Honest Company has an entire line of vitamins, including a baby DHA supplement and a prenatal vitamin that is reputed to be easy on the tummy. (I wish I knew about it during my pregnancies!)

While these three tips haven't given us a 100% success rate, they have definitely helped.  We still have occasional tears at the dinner table (they aren't always mine), and I know my kids would probably choose Chick-fil-A over my version of gourmet any day, but I like to think the grownups are slowly winning the food war in the Reese household.  

What's your best story from the food battlefield?  I love hearing that I'm not alone on this journey! 

Friday, July 01, 2016

A Letter to My Baby

Dear Everett, 

Tonight, when I tucked you in, swaddled in a nest of blankets and stuffed animal friends, I hugged you tight and asked you a very important question.  "Will you stay my baby forever?" I asked.  You paused for a moment, really considering, and said, "Yes."  "Promise?"  I asked.  "For ever and ever?" "Yes!" you said again.

My eyes brimmed with tears, because, of course I knew you were lying.

Someday, you'll stop saying, "I just want to snuggle with you."  You won't depend on sucking your thumb and caressing your belly button to fall asleep.  We will go for a drive in the car, and you won't enthrall me with your newest ideas for this year's Halloween costume.  "Mom!  I know what I should be . . . "

Someday, you won't be scared to jump in a swimming pool, or if you are, you'll do it anyway, instead of clinging to me like a spider monkey.

Your thick, little, potato-like baby feet will turn into normal little boy feet.  They'll slide into shoes that you can lace on your own.  They won't need to stand on a stool in the kitchen to reach the counter.  They'll pedal a bicycle.  Maybe they'll score a soccer goal.  

Someday, you'll put on a superhero costume, and it will just be a costume.

You won't beg for, "Milkies!" with the zeal of an addict.  Your eyes won't glaze over as you guzzle whole milk from a sippy cup.

You'll wake up one day and my magical powers will dry up, when you decide that a kiss from me really doesn't make it all better.

Suddenly, you won't beg for one more story and one more song.

Oh, my sweet Everett, I'd like to say that I have savored every moment of your babyhood, but the truth is, that would be as much of a lie as the one you just told.  You're growing up way too fast, little one.  And, although I am in awe of the amazing little person you are becoming, it hurts my heart just a tad.

Even if you can't really keep your promise, maybe you can keep it for just a little bit longer.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fall, Winter, and the Start of Spring, in One Grand Post!

A dear friend texted me a few days ago, and provided me with a gentle reminder that this blog that I've been neglecting for months (MONTHS!) is not only an important family record, but is also a link between our family and other people we hold dear, but don't get to see every day.  Or every week.  Or month.  Or, in a lot of cases, over a span of years.  So, I'm recommitting.  This little project, that I started on a whim during an afternoon shift at BYU Mail Services more than a decade ago, was probably one of the best things I've ever done.  And in a grand effort to catch up, I give you the following monstrosity:

In September . . . 
Kaden started his last (just a moment, I need to get a box of tissues, my eyes are brimming with tears) year of preschool.  Academically, this kid was so ready for kindergarten, but with his birthday falling right before the enrollment cut off, Chad and I both felt we should give him an extra year to mature socially (and really, to give him an edge when he reaches those teenage years).  I wanted him to still feel challenged, and to have a change of scenery; I immediately fell in love with this sweet school when I went to observe.  It felt so right that I cried.  It's a 20 minute haul each way, and after losing both my carpool buddies, I've questioned my decision to send him here more than once, but I know this is where he was supposed to be for his last year of pre-k.  

We gave into the peer pressure and joined the minivan club.  I've got to say, despite my initial skepticism, it is a very fantastic, albeit un-hip, family vehicle.  I am in love and I don't care who knows it!  

We spent Labor Day weekend with Chad's parents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  We had a great time enjoying the beach, introducing the boys to crab legs (Kaden keeps asking when we will be eating them again), and savoring family time.





I spent lots of Sundays behind the piano in Primary, watching these three pranksters, and praying for their teachers.  

We finished stage one of our downstairs face lift.  I'm really happy with how much lighter and brighter it feels, even though there's still shopping work to be done! 

I ate the best mac-n-cheese of my life, when I snuck out one evening to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend.  And my tomato pie wasn't too shabby either.  

We attended the family Fabry conference in Greensboro, which has become a tradition.  I volunteered at the camp for children with the disease at Victory Junction this year and had an amazing experience.    

Everett upped his Strider game and started coasting.  

I went in for a precautionary MRI to assess a soft-tissue mass on my right shin and, following the results, was referred to an oncologist.    

In October . . . 

We drove to Baltimore, to spend Columbus Day weekend with my mom, and to celebrate her birthday. Our pass to the Durham museum got us in to probably the most amazing science museum of all time for free. It was awesome.  The kids loved it, and Grandma treated us to an IMAX movie about humpback whales. We ate Shake Shack for lunch, and Everett snoozed on the go.  On Sunday we went to church, and then had a picnic lunch at the park.  We had a great time and loved that when we left on Monday, we knew we'd be seeing her again soon.  I always hated those Utah goodbyes!  

Everett and I tagged along with Kaden on his school field trip to the pumpkin patch/farm.  

This is Kaden's cute friend, Jo Jo.  Only semi-related to this photo, but I have to document it somewhere:  A few weeks into the school year, Kaden's teacher talked to me at carpool and said that they had a lesson about asking for permission before giving hugs, and reminding everyone that you can say no to a hug.  She said so many of the little girls kept hugging him, and that he looked terrified.  At his preschool open house, one of the moms told me that her daughter, Jocelyn, thinks Kaden is her boyfriend.  Thankfully, he doesn't seem to be aware of this.  Kaden, I hope you are still terrified of PDA in 10 years.

We spent a beautiful fall day at Pullen Park with friends.



Kaden went to the cutest Halloween party of ALL time, hosted by one of his preschool friends.  You know when you see one of those perfectly executed parties on Pinterest and wish you were creative enough and cool enough to pull it off?  It turns out some people actually ARE and DO.  I was in awe.  And it wasn't even anyone's birthday!  Just an excuse for a party!  



I drove to Durham, paid the atrocious parking fee at Duke hospital, and, after waiting for over an hour, met with an oncologist, who threw out the c-word when he reviewed my MRI results with me.  And I understandably freaked out, since my PA had used the words, "purely routine," and "nothing to be concerned about" at least a billion and a half times during our brief phone conversation when she suggested that I see him. Suddenly, I was in a room with half a dozen people I didn't know, being told by a sarcoma expert that he was, "very concerned this tumor may be cancerous," and I said, "I honestly don't think I can have Fabry disease AND cancer; it wouldn't be fair," then started to cry.  I called my dear friend, Jamie, who was watching my boys, and asked if they could stay for an additional two hours while they did an in office biopsy. I'd gone to the appointment alone, under the false pretense that everything was hunky dory, but the nurse practitioner was the world's sweetest, and held my hand the entire time.  (Nurses are angels!  Can I get an AMEN?!)

The cancer center at Duke is in this magnificently beautiful building, and when I left my appointment, this sweet gentleman was just starting to play, "When You Wish Upon a Star."  I wanted to hug him.  Instead, I walked to my car and waited for two weeks, before the doctor would get the biopsy results back from pathology.  They came back benign, but despite the statistical accuracy of such results, the oncologist was still skeptical.  He didn't agree with the pathologist's diagnosis, because he didn't think the MRI imaging matched up.  He recommended scheduling immediate surgery to remove the tumor, as it was pressing on a nerve and would eventually need to come out anyway.  That way, we wouldn't lose any ground if the pathologist was wrong.  So, we did.          

We went to our neighborhood's fall festival for free juice boxes, fried chicken, and bounce houses.

Chadwick started painting again.  

We savored my favorite season with many a fall bike ride.  I love Autumn, and I especially love Autumn in North Carolina.  

We ate lots of Joe Joes, sometimes with hot cocoa.  

A very darling addition to the dark side, one preschool-sized Darth Vader, and his miniature storm trooper accomplice, hit up many a Halloween event in costume.  One of my favorite times was the carnival at Kaden's sweet Montessori school.  

We started another stellar soccer season with these cute boys as teammates, and their awesome dads as coaches.

We spent the BEST Halloween of all time at Vollmer Farm with our favorite Gigi and Poppy.  The place was practically empty, and we enjoyed every feature with no lines or chaos.    


Then we hit the streets to beg for candy.  

We met up with friends at the start of the evening, so we could get a group shot of these buddies in their Star Wars gear.  (I'm still disappointed that Mia ditched her R2D2 outfit for Queen Elsa.)

In November . . . 

I started enzyme replacement therapy for my Fabry Disease.  I spent approximately 8 hours every two weeks binge watching British television, while medication dripped through my IV.  Even though this has been less than convenient, I am thankful for treatment, something that's relatively new in the Fabry community.  I also feel empowered and more in control of my own health, knowing that I am doing all that I can to prevent this disease from further damaging my body.  I'm also incredibly thankful to have recently transitioned to home infusions, which doesn't require a drive to Duke, or a two hour wait time for my medication! Thankfully, my time tethered to an IV has also been reduced drastically!    

I had that pesky tumor removed from my right leg, and was thrilled to officially know that the nasty little intruder was 100% benign.  The official diagnosis?  A spindle cell lipoma.  It turns out it was those tricky spindle cells fooling my oncologist, as they appear dark and mottled in MRI scans, just like cancerous tissue. Also, this type of tumor typically appears in the shoulders of middle-aged men.  Not the lower right legs of women in their 30s.  I'm special.  Hooray for no cancer diagnosis, and for ultimate Thanksgiving gratitude! Hooray, also, for all the people who helped take care of me and my family while I recovered.  We were so spoiled with in-home help from Joy and my mom, meals from friends, and play dates for the boys.      
We did our very best to "re-start the fun," with a quick trip to the Durham Museum of Life and Science.  I sure miss the days when these little boys were in Joy School together, learning their ABC's and singing songs with me, when it was my turn to teach.

We ate until we were completely stuffed at Joy and Bruce's house on Turkey Day.

In December . . . 

The Sounders became league champs, much to Kaden's joy.  In his words, "It's hard being a champion." That plastic trophy may have gone to his head.  In all seriousness, though, I was really proud of Kaden during his fall soccer season.  He was one of the youngest kids on the team; he worked so hard and grew a lot as a player.  We loved watching him score, and also be a team player.        

We savored every moment of the special spirit that fills the air during the most magical time of the year.  Lots of storybook hours in front of the Christmas tree, a visit to our Stake's creche exhibit, visits S.C. himself, a night out at our favorite party of the year (the Stevenson's ugly sweater bash), a special encounter with a real, live storm trooper, and one last Christmas Jon Jon for Everett.  My favorite part of the holiday season was a new tradition we started as a family.  We ditched our elf this year (well, technically he went missing and we just never replaced him), and instead got a 25 days of Christ ornament kit.  Every evening we read a scripture about the life of Christ, a devotional message (sometimes watched a short video clip), and put an ornament relating to it on our tree.  The kids loved this, and it really brought home the real meaning of the season.    


Living with two Star Wars obsessed little boys made the premiere of the new movie even more fun.  Everett stayed home with a sitter, but we took Kaden to see the movie with one of his best buddies, Mark.  Of course, costumes were in order.  

Kaden and Everett both managed to make the nice list this year and were spoiled rotten by Mr. S.C., not to mention two sets of grandparents and great-grandparents.  We hosted Gigi and Poppy and Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning festivities.  



Star Wars paraphernalia dominated the gift scene, and these two weren't too disappointed about that.

In January . . . 

We discovered the boys were much more adventurous in their pizza topping choices during make your own pizza night at home.  

We started to take advantage of all our new museum memberships, thanks to generous Grandma, Grandpa, Gigi, Poppy, Nana, and Papa.

In January . . . 

Kaden and I finished reading the first Harry Potter book and celebrated with a movie night, complete with chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott's every flavor beans.

We drove to Washington D.C. and spent a fun three-day weekend with Grandma and Grandpa.  It was kind of the trip from hell with two little ones in cold weather, both our kids had public meltdowns, and I cried while driving and demanded a new navigator, but the pictures make it seem lovely.  We hit up the National Zoo, the Air and Space Museum, several monuments, rode the metro, discovered the world's best toasted-marshmallow shake, and chowed down at our new favorite pizzeria in Arlington.   

At one point on the trip, we thought we'd lost Everett's beloved rhinoceros, Shiloh the rhino.  Luckily, Kaden found him and they were reunited just before bedtime.

The boys finally got some snow.  Well, mostly ice, but they were still happy about it.  We enjoyed lots of snuggles by the fire and hot cocoa breaks to warm up after sledding adventures.  Of course, a snow day in our house isn't officially a snow day, until we have our traditional beignet and bacon breakfast.       

Our family spent the entire day in our pajamas, the perfect under-snow-gear layer, which Kaden and I are modeling here:

We went house hunting with Grandma, after she accepted a new job in Jacksonville, NC., which is pretty much the best news ever, since it puts my parents two and half hours away, and also conveniently close to the beach.  Joy went with us, and we had a lot of fun peeking in windows of rental properties, and driving all over the greater Jacksonville area.  The boys were so good all day, so we rewarded them with some sunset play time on Emerald Isle.  It was such a beautiful ending to a day.       

I snuck out to honor a dear friend one night for some exceptional birthday sushi.  

We headed to Kinston, filed our taxes, ate ice cream at the best local creamery imaginable, and enjoyed a date night out with free babysitting, thanks to Joycious and Brucious.  

North Carolina continued to be awesome, by allowing me to take my children to parks in light jackets on many occasions.  Everett was pretty happy about that.  

In March . . . 

Bruce and Joy kept the kiddos, while Chad and I booked it to Baltimore to help Mom and Dad officially make the trek to North Carolina.  We loaded all of their earthly belongings from temporary storage into two giant Uhauls, then caravaned to NC where we helped unload them.  It was an exhausting couple of days, but I am so glad we were able to help, and that they are officially here!

We started to have some shorts and t-shirt weather, which made picnics, bike rides, and park play dates pretty standard.

Chad and I each took a turn going with Kaden to his school for an evening.  He was able to show us some of his favorite works.  He has really thrived at his preschool this year.  He's grown as a reader (independently reading some chapter books and even The Book of Mormon these days), has learned some basics of multiplication and fractions, lots of geography, and all kinds of other cool things.  He is a worker bee, and his teachers tell me he gets a lot accomplished during a daily work cycle.

We lucked out with free tickets to a children's performance by the North Carolina Symphony, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend.  The entire performance was based around Lemony Snicket's picture book, The Composer is Dead, one of my favorites.  It was fun seeing it brought to life! 

I helped the boys dye Easter eggs one Sunday afternoon, and everyone survived.  

The boys combined their Christmas money from Gram and bought some magnatiles.  They've been getting a lot of daily use.  Now we want some more!

The boys and I discovered doughnut Mecca in Durham after a trip to the science museum one day.  If you're local, you should try Monuts PRONTO.  

I got to hang out with these two beauties at Time Out for Women in downtown Raleigh, for a little bit of spiritual rejuvenation that was greatly needed.  

There are days that end with me in a puddle of exhausted tears and days that end with pure satisfaction and joy.  Motherhood is definitely my hardest job to date, but by far the most rewarding.  

A sweet friend was kind enough to share some of her boys' old treasures with us, and my kids have loved every one.  Everett's Batman voice when he wears this cape is pretty much the cutest thing of all time.

I officially transitioned to home infusion.  I had one terrible experience (five sticks to get the IV in. F.I.V.E., while the nurse told me she was nervous and not very experienced with IVs . . . ummmmmm OK?!), was honest about it, and thankfully switched home health care providers.  I have an AWESOME nurse now, which has made my every other week infusion a lot less dreadful.  My pump fits in a fanny pack, so  I've cooked dinner, done laundry, snuggled the boys for movie time, and felt as close to normal as possible during infusions since the switch. From start to finish, I'm done in about three hours now.  I'm still pretty wiped out at the end, but the convenience has been great!

These two cuties had lots and lots of breakfast dates.

We enjoyed lots and lots of Easter festivities.  We kicked things off by joining in at an egg hunt potluck for our playgroup, complete with activities and photo booth.  

Next up was our neighborhood hunt.  I volunteered to help our awesome neighbor with this event.  We stuffed a bazillion eggs, and though I might be biased, I think it was a huge hit.

Everett even found one of the golden prize eggs.  He was pretty excited!

We went to my parents' house for Easter, and I stayed up all night making a ridiculous coconut cake.  Chad's parents drove down from Kinston and joined us for dinner.  It was fun to all be together!  

We hit up the beach on Monday, before driving home.  My parents are renting a house about fifteen minutes from Emerald Isle.  It's pretty fantastic to have them that close to one of our favorite beaches.    We can never get Kaden out of the water.  

And we can never get Everett in.

Kaden found an awesome shell to add to Grandma and Grandpa's back porch collection.

In April . . . 

We went camping with friends overnight.  It was a pretty cold night, but we all survived.  I left thinking, "We should do this again!" while Chad's take was, "That was pretty terrible."  

I did a 21 day sugar detox, so for three weeks I kicked sugar to the curb.  All sugar.  No honey, very minimal fruit (one green apple, green-tipped banana, or grapefruit was allowed a day), and very minimal carbohydrates.  It was extremely difficult, easier than I expected, rewarding, and miserable all at the same time.  Someday I might write an entire post about it, but for now, I guess I would say I'm glad I did it, and I will probably do it again at some point.  It didn't cure my sugar addiction in the slightest (which maybe is a good thing, since affinity for dessert is kind of a huge part of who I am), but it did teach me that I have more will power than I previously supposed, and I felt amazing when I was eating this way.    

Kaden and I found a new favorite game to play during Everett's nap time, when he actually naps.  

We spent lots, and lots, and lots of time in the culdesac.

Spring isn't spring until we go to NC State Farm Days.  We've been every year since our move to Raleigh. Even though there are mobs of people, I just love it.  My parents came and joined us this year.  

Everett, ever the animal lover, adored every second.  Kaden had to plug his nose every time he was near an animal.  He's a true city boy.

I'm not going to lie, missing out on this free ice cream was one of the hardest moments of my sugar detox. So silly, but true!  

We stopped by Historic Yate's Mill Park after the farm festivities.  It was gorgeous!  I can't believe it's taken me this long to go there!

Kaden's class took an Earth Day field trip to a small, local organic farm.  

In May . . . 

Spring soccer continued and Kaden's team remains undefeated; they will play in the championship game in a couple of weeks.  Kade has grown as a player this year, and while he may not be the tallest or fastest player on the team, his hard work (and Daddy's coaching and backyard practicing) has paid off.  It's been fun seeing him start to anticipate where the ball will be played, and to be able to control the ball with his head up. He's scored at least one goal at every game, and despite missing one game this season, is still the highest scorer on the team.  Most importantly, he is an excellent teammate and celebrates everyone's victories and successes.  He really wants another championship trophy, but we will have to see what the end of the season brings.  He is ready for a more challenging league, so sadly this may be his last season with Daddy as one of his coaches.      

And I'm officially caught up!  Until I load the pictures from my phone onto the computer.  Phew!  That was terrible.  May I learn from my mistakes and never go that long without posting again!  

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