Monday, February 27, 2012

Congratulations, Cameron!

We just found out that Chad's brother, Cameron, was accepted to BYU.  He's on a mission for our church in Las Vegas, Nevada right now, so we sent him an email with this picture today:

We are so excited for him!  We know Cameron will love BYU!

'Twas Two Months After Christmas

And this morning in the house
The mother's guilt was stirring, much more than that of her spouse
A blog post with pictures had never been completed with care
Even though St. Nicholas had shown up and been there

So when the cranky toddler was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of fruit snacks and raisins danced in his head
Mama in her PJs, with computer in her lap
Hoped that the baby would continue to nap.

Then the keyboard produced such a clatter
As memories of Christmas made her post grow quite fatter.

 OK...enough of the rhymes.  Seriously though.  A Christmas post two months late?  Shameful.  Even though it's very late, I want to document our Christmas adventures.

Kaden met Santa for the first time at our ward Christmas party.  The interview did not go well, but we did get a free candy cane out of it:

Since we went to my parents' house for Christmas this year, Santa visited us early in  Kinston, so we wouldn't have as much to haul home in suitcases.  We went over to Gigi and Poppy's house, so everyone could watch Kaden open his presents.  While we were there, we opened our gifts from Chad's family as well. . Here are some of the things Santa brought Kaden:

His very first real soccer ball!  It's a size three, and he is quite the champ at dribbling this little baby. Here he is, excitedly showing his ball to everyone in the room, and to Kenzie, Tanner, and Aunt Meredith who were Skyping with us.  

Here is Kaden's captive audience:

 And Aunt Lauren and Uncle Tyler helping him open one of his gifts.  This year was a lot more fun, since last year he just cried every time he heard the paper tear. 

 Just when it looked like there were no presents left, the big Kahuna was discovered in the living room:

 I hear Santa got a killer garage sale deal on this little baby.  Somewhere to the tune of $3.00.  Not in mint condition, but a great used model, since it's his first car.  We figure he's likely to wreck it anyway. 

Here is Kaden showing off for the crowd at our early Christmas celebration.  He kept opening the car door, getting inside, getting out of the car, then slamming the door, and doing a funny dance move.  We found it hysterical.  As soon as Kaden knew we were laughing at him, it was game over.  He is such a little ham and loves to show off.  (I can't imagine where he got this from . . . certainly not from his mother! Cough. Cough). 

We also had a wonderful time spending two weeks with my family in Utah.  Grandma Joy and Uncle Jim were there along with my parents, Jared, Bryan and Lizadel, and their sweet little girl, Adeline. 

We did all kinds of fun things while we were there.  My favorites were eating home cooked goodness and spending lots of quality time in my pajamas.  My second favorites were eating at Cafe Rio and In and Out repeatedly.   (Anyone sense a trend here?)  We went out to eat (oh, dear, there it is again) with my lovely friend Stephanie and her husband Cameron while we were there as well.  Sadly, their sweet little boy wasn't able to  join us. 

Kaden wasn't so sure about Addy, mostly because he saw her as a huge source of competition.  He wouldn't let me hold her at all and would scream, "My mama!!!" anytime I went near her.  Don't worry though, I got lots of cuddle time with my beautiful niece when he was asleep at night. Here are some cousin shots of Kaden and Addy together:

 I particularly like this one, as it sums up how Kaden regarded Addy most of the trip:

 Since Kaden's photos with Santa at our ward party in Kinston hadn't gone over too well, we took him to see Santa at the mall in Utah just before Christmas.  The photographers there had a great drop-the-baby-from-behind-so-he-doesn't-know-what's-coming-approach that worked wonders.  Unfortunately, I don't have a digital image of the picture.  It did turn out really cute though, and their Santa was stellar!  Real beard and everything!

We had a big scare on Christmas Eve when Grandma Joy had a stroke.  She had to spend most of Christmas day in the hospital as well.  We are so thankful that she is OK and recovering well.  She's a real trooper and is doing speech therapy to help her recover from her stroke.  We celebrated Christmas together after Grandma got out of the hospital.  We had an AMAZING dinner, featuring prime rib (we used The Pioneer Woman's rub DIE for) cooked nice and rare.  I also made 48 delicious, buttery crescent rolls.   

Here's the table, all set:

Kaden was very spoiled by west-coast relatives as well.  I feel bad for my child, since he is clearly not loved, nor does he have anything to play with.  Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of the gift opening.

One of my favorite parts of our trip was going to see the lights on Temple Square.  They always do such a spectacular job.  They've added some things since we'd last been there, and it was absolutely beautiful.  My friend Callie met us there, and it was also great to see her. 

Our vacation flew by all too quickly.  We had our traditional Jensen family New Year's appetizer feast a day early, since we flew back to NC on New Year's Eve.  Bacon tomato tarts, crab and cream cheese wantons, and spinach artichoke dip were just a few selections on the menu.   We got back to Kinston just a little after midnight; our New Year's kiss was shared in the car.

Christmas time is one of my favorite parts of the year.  I love that it is a time we think about giving.  A time when we remember the Savior.  There's just such a special feeling associated with Christmas.  Christmas 2011 was no exception for us.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Mushy Love Post

No, this post isn't about Chad, although I love him, too.  This post is about the love and adoration I have for my neighbors, the Howards.

Coming across these pictures is what prompted this post:

 I took these right before we all moved to Cary, because I wanted to remember Kaden playing with the Howard kids.  Looking at these makes me cry, and cry, and cry.

When we bought our fixer-upper on West Highland Avenue, I was new to Kinston.  I knew the Howards, but I didn't really know them.  It was nice thinking we'd have a good family living across the street, but I had no clue how lucky we really were.

How do I love the Howards?  Let me count the ways:

1)  I love all of the yummy treats I've gotten to devour thanks to Stephanie's amazing cooking skills.  There is nothing as wonderful as getting a phone call with her on the other line asking if we'd like to "try" some of the dessert she just made, or hearing the doorbell ring and seeing a cute blond child standing there with a plate of gourmet cupcakes.

2)  I love how gorgeous their yard is.  Even though it meant that my yard always looked like complete crap compared to theirs, it was so nice to gaze out the window and see something pretty.  No matter the season, it always looks so lovely.

3)  I love all of the walks I've taken with Stephanie.  She is the kind of friend to whom you can tell anything.

4)  I love all the walks Stephanie has taken with my child.  Let me ask you something:  Does your neighbor call you up and ask to "borrow" your infant or toddler, even if he's cranky?  No?  Well, mine does.  Not only that, but she usually tells me to go run errands while she has him.  I know.  Be very jealous.  Stephanie has served our family in so many ways, big and small, and she always acts like it's no big deal, even when it is a huge inconvenience for her.  For example, she once kept Kaden for an entire day for me while I was still teaching, and it was her husband's day off! 

5)  I love that I have been able to watch a Supermom (not to mention Superwoman!) and learn from her.  Stephanie is such a patient, loving mom.  She is such a hard worker!  She is the kind of person who makes you realize you can do anything. 

6)  I love Landon, Joel, and Allison.  I love them.  And I love how much they love our Kaden boy.  I think Joel would give Kaden every toy he owns if we let him.  Every time we go over there we leave with a basketball, a truck, or a book.  I love all of the coloring book pages we kept posted on our refrigerator from Allison--beautifully executed designs with inscriptions like "To KR" (Katie Reese) or "To KF" (Kaden Fox).  I love all the amazing deals on magazine subscriptions I've gotten thanks to Landon's school fundraisers.  I just love the Howard kids.

7)  I love that even though the Howards aren't my neighbors anymore, they will always be like family to us.

One of the saddest parts of leaving Kinston is leaving our amazing neighbors behind.  I've tried to convince them to move with us, but to no avail.   I hope when we buy our next house we'll find new neighbors to love, but somehow I doubt they'll hold a candle to the Howards.  We already miss them so much!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Their house smelled strongly of gerbils, although they had no pets . . .

It's true.  The apartment where we are living smells like gerbils . . . and cat urine.  We affectionately refer to the upstairs office as The Gerbil Room.  It's kind of like when you go to a fancy hotel and they have specially named rooms.  Only, not really, because one doesn't really look forward to residing in a place referred to as The Gerbil Room.

Let's backtrack a bit, shall we, so that you can understand what would possess us to inhabit a place that smells like a mall pet store.

You may recall that Chad got a job in Raleigh that began at the start of December.

You may recall this left me in Kinston as a single parent four nights a week, while he stayed in Raleigh Monday through Thursday nights for said job.

You may remember that I was teaching for all of December and January.

Well, the story doesn't end there, folks.  Let me pick up where we left off.

After the semester concluded at the end of January, I immediately brought Kaden to Raleigh and we spent a couple of days apartment hunting.  I imagine apartment shopping can be fun if you have an unlimited budget and an adult companion searching with you.  Unfortunately, a very limited budget and a rambunctious toddler were my accomplices on this journey.

Since we will be paying our mortgage AND rent until our house sells, my options were pretty limited when it came to apartments.  I spent weeks before hand scouting out areas online, reading tenant reviews, and reading posts on Craigslist, trying to find something suitable for six months to a year of habitation.  When Kaden and I set out for our hunt in the early morning hours, what looked like a bleak situation became a hellish one.

First of all, several of the places that had looked OK online, just didn't look as nice in person.  In broad daylight.  With scary people wandering around the parking lots.  One place wouldn't even let me see the unit I would be living in until I signed a contract.  Ummmmm, can I say RED FLAG?! 

Secondly, several of the places that had seemed like a good deal online, actually tacked on numerous extra charges that weren't mentioned on their websites.  For example, one dump was going to force us to pay for cable.  The lady kept telling me, "cable is included with the apartment."  And I kept wanting to say, "Lady, if you're charging me an extra $25 a month, that doesn't mean it's included."  We haven't paid for cable our entire marriage.  We had cable TV for free during the Provo years, but since then, we've been a rabbit-ears antenna household (with a little Hulu Plus and Netflix mixed in occasionally for good measure).

Finally, I had a toddler with me while discovering all of this information.  I want to give credit where credit is due, and so, therefore, I've got to hand it to Kaden.  He was as good as he possibly could be.  But he is a toddler, and after a certain point enough was enough.  He also pooped six times during our excursion.  SIX.  TIMES.  He would always do his business at the most inopportune times, also.  We'd just be pulling out in a golf cart with someone to go look at a unit, and I'd get a whiff of death.  Plus, he HATES having his diaper changed right now.  That made the diaper pit stops quite the adventure.  If we hadn't had a portable DVD player with Cars, I don't know how he would have survived the car rides.  We went all over the triangle area. 

By the time late afternoon rolled around, we had to take a break, because Kaden was dying for a nap.  We went back to Wake Forest where Chad was staying, I put Kaden in the pack-n-play, and then I hid on the stairs (you can't be in the same room as him if you want him to fall asleep), and I cried.  Then, I prayed that I could find some place that was safe and decent for us to live for a few months.  A few minutes later on Craigslist I found someone looking to sublease a townhouse in Cary from February through mid-July.  I immediately emailed them.

When we went to see the place, I noticed a slight pet odor, but I figured, "Of course it smells like pets!  Pets are living here!  Nothing a little Febreeze can't fix!"  And so, we signed a lease on a three bedroom townhouse in a perfect location for us, for only 10 more dollars a month than the two bedroom hovels at which I'd been previously looking.  Plus, because it is a sublease we didn't have to pay a deposit. 

Even with the lingering pet odor, I still think we made the right apartment decision.  It is slowly getting better, with a lot of carpet powder, Febreeze, and Nature's Miracle Pet Urine Eliminator.  I am just terrified that someone is going to come into our house, look around for pets, and assume we must urinate all over our floors when no kitty-cats are to be found.                 

Once, in November, Kaden turned 15 months old . . .

 I was feeling super guilty about no pictures of Kaden at 15 months, and then I remembered that our family Christmas card photo shoot was in November.  Perfect!  Since we can't seem to get enough of this little guy, we took lots of photos of just him, too.

Kaden's 15-Month Stats:

Weight -- 23 lbs. 3 ozs.  (29th percentile--I think they might have made a mistake on this???)
Height -- 32 3/4 in. (89th percentile)
Head Circumference -- 48 1/2 cm. (83rd percentile)
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