A Much- Needed Family Summer

Even though the pandemic is still raging, our summer in our new home as a full family of five has been so refreshing! We’ve had so much quality family time that we’ve all been aching for for years! Since Covid is still going strong and we are still being protective of our little Brody, we really haven’t gotten out and about much to explore our new town and we haven’t really been able to meet people, but we know that will come soon enough when things get better. In the mean time, we’ve just been soaking up all the family time we can get, and enjoying being close to our families and cousins again.

Here’s a rundown of our July…

4th of July

We enjoyed going to the lake this year for the 4th. Our day mainly consisted of boat rides, fireworks and cousin time!

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IU Scavenger Hunt

We took the kids on a long walk through IU’s campus, and I wanted to find a way to make sure they somewhat stayed interested, so I made a scavenger hunt. It included specific landmarks around campus, such as the Sample Gates, the Showalter Fountain and the Herman B. Wells statue, but it also included things like red and white flowers, a red clock, people riding bikes, etc. The kids enjoyed it even though it was about 100 degrees out that day!

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Exploring new parks

We have tried to spend some time finding old and new parks to explore in our new town. The first one I wanted to go to was my favorite park from college, Lower Cascades Park. It is a beautiful little park with a hidden creek and waterfall. The kids LOVED the waterfall area! They spent a good hour climbing behind and all around it, and throwing rocks in the creek.

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After the waterfall hike, we let the kids just play on the playground. This park is also nice because it isn’t usually too crowded. Another day, we came back to this park to ride bikes and had a Subway picnic.

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Another park we tried was called Switchyard Park. Kinsie liked to call it the “American Ninja Warrior Park” because it had lots of climbing ninja-type activities, which is one of her current obsessions!

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Pool Parties

We’ve gone to my parents’ pool about once a week this month. This is probably the kids’ favorite place to play with their cousins!

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We recently let Brody have his first pool experience. He was pretty chill about it, like most things in life!

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Lake Life

We’ve spent almost every weekend at the lake, our happy place! We always love going on lots of boat rides whenever we can.

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The kids have loved spending time with their other cousins as well. We enjoyed visiting some cousins at the Heritage Lake Campground, as well as some much-needed Griffin time!

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We always have fun at the lake. Whether it’s fishing, swimming, boat rides, paddle boat rides, kayaking, or just hanging out, it is always a fun and relaxing time!

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Outdoor Living

The house we are currently living in is a great place to catch fireflies. The kids loved their first firefly experience!

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Ryan has never had this much time off before, and he is not the type to sit around…so he did lots of projects. Just a few examples include a giant Jenga set, and a peg board for the kids to climb!

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Fun at Renata’s

The kids are always asking when we can go back to Aunt Renata’s house. I took them one day and like usual, they had a blast. They loved playing with Nicole’s dog Winnie in the baby pool, running around outside, and doing lots of painting and art projects!

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Kinsie the Biker Babe!

Our big girl Kinsie learned how to ride her bike without training wheels…in about 5 minutes! We were visiting Ryan’s Aunt Rita and her family at the campground, and Kinsie wanted to ride bikes with her cousins. The only extra bike they had didn’t have training wheels, so Aunt Rita took her out and Kinsie picked it up SO quickly! It was so much fun watching her ride and all the kids running with her and cheering her on! We’ve been taking her places as often as we can to keep practicing. She’s a pro now!

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Kinsie Dates

My sweet Kinsie has REALLY missed being in school. She was supposed to start her first day at her new school on August 5, but her district decided to do online learning until at least September. She’s super bummed, so I’ve been trying to find ways to keep her spirits up. Since she is at home with her brothers all day every day, she’s been needing some breaks…and since she’s good about wearing a mask, I’m able to take her on little dates. One day I took her to get special drinks from Starbucks and then to the park. Another day I took her to get school supplies and go see her school. She loves our girl dates!

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Cousin Bike Ride

Ever since Kinsie learned to ride her bike with no training wheels, she wants to ride ALL the time! Our rental house is on a main road, so she can’t ride there, so we take it to parks and my parents’ house often. One day, my sister brought her kids and their bikes too and all 5 of the kids had a cousin bike ride.

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Brody is 2 months!

We are SO grateful for our precious Brody in our lives, especially during such a weird time. His sweet noises and smiles can brighten up any dark day we may have.

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Here are some updates on our Bro at 2 months:

  • He is 12 lbs. 5 oz. – 55th percentile for weight.
  • He is 24″ long – 85th percentile for height.
  • Like my other kids, he has quite a large noggin! His head circumference is in the 95th percentile!
  • He sleeps a good 6-7 hour stretch at night in between feedings.
  • He is talking and interacting much more.
  • He is SO smiley…especially in the mornings.
  • He recognizes voices and faces and love his family.
  • He loves doing bicycle kicks with his legs. When his belly hurts, this is one of the only things that calms him.
  • He loves when people talk to him and love to be involved in whatever we’re doing.
  • Car rides, boat rides, and being worn in a carrier always soothe him to sleep.
  • He is getting on a more consistent eat – wake – sleep cycle… a Babywise method that worked well for my other kids.

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The kids are still completely obsessed with their little brother. They love cuddling with him, talking to him, playing with him, helping give him baths, and cheering him on with tummy time!

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His smile is seriously my favorite…

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More sweet Brody faces!

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As you can see below, he has already grown a lot! He is really filling out and getting some cute chubby cheeks!

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We are all head-over-heels with this sweet little boy. Even though giving birth and living with a newborn in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic has been extremely difficult, his laid back personality and overall sweetness has made every difficult second completely worth it. He was an unexpected, but perfect gift from God. If it would have been up to me, of course I wouldn’t choose to have a baby during a pandemic. But God knows better and I can’t imagine life without this precious gift He knew we needed!

Ryan is excited to start his official job in August, Kinsie will start online learning, and Braxton gets to start at his new preschool. We also should be breaking ground on our house in August as well. We are grateful for these things to keep us busy and give us something to look forward to during an unpredictable time.

Enjoy our July 1 Second Everyday video!

Our First Month Back

We have officially lived in Indiana for one month now. Well…the kids and I have, Ryan has only been back about a week! It has been very different than I originally expected pre-pandemic. We are obviously still living in quarantine as much as possible and haven’t been able to visit as many friends and family as we’d like, but it has still been nice being close to our immediate family, especially with Ryan away. We are definitely still reeling from the crazy roller coaster that our lives have been the last few months, but it helped to have our family close to help me and entertain these busy kids!

Here is a recap of our month of June…

Swimming at Yaya’s

The kids and I stayed at my parents during the month of June while Ryan finished his residency. We spent lots of time swimming! One of Kinsie’s summer goals was to learn to swim completely on her own with no floaties. Well, she accomplished that goal in about 5 minutes! My mom worked with her in stages and had her swimming and jumping off the diving board independently in no time!

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Play Dates at Aunt Renata’s

We’ve always been close to Ryan’s Aunt Renata, and she used to help watch my kids when I was working. We really missed her during our time in Arkansas, so we’ve been making it up with lots of play dates at her house! The kids are always busy when visiting her house, whether it’s throwing rocks in the creek, painting rocks and birdhouses, making cookies, or just lounging in the hammock!

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Lake Days

Oh, how we’ve missed our days at Heritage Lake! It is one of our absolute favorite places to be. We spent several days on the lake with Grandma Bev and Papa Tim this month.

Fishing

I spent as much time fishing as I could since I haven’t done it in far too long. The kids like to fish too…but they don’t have the attention span to do it for long. Usually what ended up happening was they would do other things while I fished, then when I caught one, they wanted to touch and hold it.

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Boat Rides

Boat ride are always a favorite activity at the lake…and now we have Brody to enjoy them with! Brody was extra calm on boat rides, and they always rocked him right to sleep!

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Other Lake Adventures

The kids loved taking cubby rides around Heritage Drive, and especially to the marina. They enjoyed ice cream lakeside, and then loved playing on the playground.

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Cousin Play Dates

The kids have LOVED being back home closer to their cousins! We’ve tried to squeeze in as much cousin fun as possible this month. Their cousin Griffin was born in the middle of residency, so we’ve only gotten to spend time with him in small chunks during our short and busy visits home, so now the kids are loving spending lots of time with him now that we’re back!

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And of course the kids love their time with their cousins on my side of the family too. They call themselves the “Super 6” and are so excited to add Brody to the cousin crew!

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Our 8th Anniversary

Unfortunately, Ryan and I didn’t get to spend our anniversary together this year, but with residency life, this is somewhat the norm. Our entire marriage so far has been simultaneous with Ryan’s medical journey, so we’ve never really had “normal lives” since we got married in 2012. However, we’ve made the best of it! Our marriage has already been tested with the craziness of med school and residency life, even several periods of time where we didn’t even get to live together, and we’ve only come out stronger because of it. We are hopeful that from now on, we’ll actually get to spend our anniversaries together and maybe even get to have a date night here and there…something that has been few and far between for us!

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Father’s Day

We also didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with Ryan this year since we were in Indiana and he was still in Arkansas. However, we tried to still make it special for him. We took a picture (below, right) and put it on a canvas and mailed it to one of Ryan’s co-residents’ houses. The kids also drew pictures for him, and we sent those as well. Ryan’s co-resident then wrapped them for me and gave the gift to him while he was on shift on Father’s Day! He was surprised and loved his gift. We also got to FaceTime with him before he went to work, so we gave him as much love as possible from a distance.

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Other Fun Activities

My older two have been through a lot the last few months…with the pandemic and not getting to finish school, moving, and getting a new sibling. With all that, they have definitely had their moments of feeling overwhelmed, but overall they have handled all the change SO well. However, they are busy kids, and they behave much better when they stay busy. We played outside as much as we could, spent days at the homes of different family members, and even visited our rental home in Bloomington a few times. They enjoyed driving cars and tractors at both grandparents’ houses, picking strawberries in Grandma Bev’s garden, and having reading time together.

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Tours of IU Campus

IU Campus has my heart. It is so beautiful and I’ve always loved visiting whenever I had the chance. Since this is now the location of our new home, I’ve loved showing the kids the campus that I love so much!

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Ryan’s Homecoming

It was a long month without Ryan, so we were counting down the days until he came home. Ryan finishing residency was very different than it was supposed to be. He was supposed to get a special graduation ceremony, but they had to do it via Zoom instead. Luckily, they livestreamed the ceremony on YouTube so we could watch. I was an emotional mess watching the whole thing because a) I was sad that it had to be this way and b) I was so proud of Ryan. He even won the Resident of the Year award!

We wanted to make it a big deal when he came home. We invited both of our families, ordered a big yard sign, made food, ordered a cake, and decorated the house with streamers and signs. We were all so excited when he finally made it home and we had a great night together with our favorite doctor finally home for good.  If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to watch the video below of his homecoming.

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Brody turned 1 Month Old!

Our sweet Brody turned 1 month old in June! We have adored every second of our time with him. He is the absolute sweetest baby, and I am convinced that with all the craziness going on this year, God knew we needed a sweet baby like him. He has made a very difficult time in the world a whole lot better for us.

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Here are some stats about Brody at 1 month old…

  • At his 1 month checkup, he was 10 pounds and 2.5 oz (55th percentile), and 22.5 inches long (80th percentile).
  • Like I said before, he is SO sweet.
  • He is very laid back, something I did not expect based on the energy level of my other two, and how he acted in utero.
  • He rarely cries, something else we weren’t expecting based on our last colicky child.
  • He may not cry often, but he sure makes a lot of noises. He squeaks and grunts a lot. His little squeaks are the sweetest sound, and the kids call him “Squeaks” because of it. Whenever he’s hungry or gassy, rather than crying, he just grunts. I’ll take grunts any day over excessive crying!
  • He is most comfortable when being held. He is such a snuggly baby.
  • When he is awake and happy, he wiggles and kicks his legs a lot.
  • He had his first social smile right around 4 weeks old, and it was when FaceTiming with his daddy.
  • He loves watching ceiling fans.
  • He enjoys watching his big sister and big brother while they play.
  • He is very tolerant of the love (more like smothering) that he gets from Kinsie and Brax.
  • He loves his pacifiers. He has a monkey and a frog pacifier, and he hugs them while he sleeps.
  • He is starting to be awake for longer periods of time, which we all love!

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The many precious faces of Brody…

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We love his adorable smile!

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I’m always capturing his big siblings loving on him. They love playing with him when he’s on the floor, and they literally argue over holding him. I often have to set timers while they take turns holding him.

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And that’s a wrap for our June. We survived with the help of our family, and now we are so happy to have Ryan home and to officially start our new chapter of life post-residency. Ryan has the entire month of July off, so we are looking forward to lots of Daddy time and trying to explore our new town (as much as we can during a pandemic).

Here is our June 1 Second Everyday video. Enjoy!

Brody’s Birth Story

Of all of my kids, Brody definitely has the longest and most eventful birth story. Life has been absolutely crazy the last few months, which is why it has taken me this long to write it all down. Having a baby during the global pandemic and all the restrictions that came with it made the birthing and hospital experience SO much harder and more isolating. The whole experience was very emotionally traumatic for me, so I’ve somewhat avoided reliving it as well. However, it’s important for me to know how far we’ve come, and to remember how blessed we are that it all turned out okay. Brace yourself, because this is a long story…

Since this was my third pregnancy, and since I went early with both of my other kids, I truly thought I would deliver this baby early as well, especially with how I was feeling physically. Between my pelvic and lower back pain, constant Braxton Hicks contractions, and carpal tunnel syndrome, I was SO ready to give birth. I was 3 centimeters dilated starting at 36 weeks, so I was almost certain he would come soon. When it didn’t happen in April, I just prayed that this baby wouldn’t share a birthday with Braxton. I really wanted my boys to have their own birthdays, and God answered that prayer as another day went by with no start of labor. After his birthday, I was ready anytime….but nothing changed.

Ryan worked a string of night shifts before he was officially on paternity leave, so I was somewhat grateful that we didn’t have to wake the kids in the middle of the night for my mom to drive me to the hospital to meet Ryan. On Mother’s Day evening, I was having contractions that actually seemed somewhat consistent. I tracked them for a few hours, and they were also getting more intense. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, and I definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital, just to be told it was false labor and be sent home. However, around 11pm, we were pretty convinced that this was the real deal. I remember labor pain, and this was it. So we drove to the hospital with our overnight bags and masks ready. Ryan wasn’t allowed to go to triage with me, he could only join me once I was admitted. He hung out in the emergency department with his colleagues until he heard from me. I was having very intense contractions while having to fill out all my paperwork by myself. It seemed like forever when I finally got to the triage room, only to find out that I was still at 3 centimeters. I had to sit in the triage room for an hour, and when they came back to check me, if I had made any progress, they would admit me, if not, they would send me home. An hour later of sitting and staring at my monitors alone (my phone was about to die so I couldn’t entertain myself on it), they came back to check me and I was still at 3 centimeters, so they sent me home. I was so surprised and disappointed that this was false labor. My contractions had felt so real and were perfectly 3-4 minutes apart, so I couldn’t believe it wasn’t real. I was so sad because I had convinced myself that I would get to meet my baby that night.

A few more days go by, and we got to the point where we had to set up an induction date…something I’d never had to do before. We set up an induction for midnight on my due date, May 17. The hospital required all women who would be admitted to L&D to be tested for COVID-19, so I had to go through the drive-through at the hospital to be tested. It was a very unpleasant experience, and luckily I was negative.

Sunday, May 17

Finally the night had come…induction night! I was so happy that I didn’t have to go through the triage system again, and it was such a relief that Ryan was able to come right up to the L&D floor with me. When we entered the hospital, the staff had to go through their COVID screening questions. The staff member asking Ryan the questions must have been tired because she forgot what to say, so Ryan said it for her! She looked surprised that he knew the speech and he just replied with, “I work here too!”

We got up to our room and got things started right away. I was still 3 centimeters dilated, so they said things should progress quickly. They gave me Pitocin, and I let that get going for a couple hours before I asked for my epidural. The epidural took longer than I remembered, and at one point I became very dizzy and thought I might pass out, but that feeling passed and the rest of the process went smoothly and kicked in pretty quickly. They left us alone for a few hours, and I tried to rest…but of course I was too anxious and uncomfortable to rest. I nodded off for 15 minutes at a time here and there, but really didn’t rest much. A few hours later, they came in to check me, and I had only progressed to 4 centimeters. They decided to go ahead and break my water to help speed things along. They broke my water, and left us alone again. About an hour later, I was feeling SO much pressure…like, ready-to-push pressure. I called the nurse back in to check me, and I was at 9.5 centimeters! So in just one hour, I progressed over 5 centimeters! The nurse said she would come back in about an hour and we should be ready. Well, 20 minutes later, I could tell it was time to start pushing, and I couldn’t wait any longer so I called the nurse in again. I was indeed at 10 centimeters and ready to push. My epidural was still working so I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I could still feel ALL the pressure. My OB came in, along with the baby nurses. The pushing process was as quick and easy as that process could be, with the exception of having to wear a mask while laboring, and my sweet baby boy was born within 10 minutes of when I started pushing. Brody Ryan Matthews was born at 10:24am weighing 7 pounds, 14 oz and 21 inches long. He was born face up, which often causes a lot of back pain during the end of pregnancy (makes sense). Right when he was born, he received an Apgar (appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration) score of 9, which is almost perfect. My baby boy was perfect. They placed him right on top of me, and Ryan and I just admired our new baby for the longest time. Since we weren’t able to have any visitors because of COVID-19, we knew my mom and the kids wouldn’t be able to come visit us in the hospital, so we called them through FaceTime right away so the kids could meet their new brother. They were in awe and fell in love with him instantly, even through FaceTime. Already, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on him, and we reassured them we would be home the next day or two as long as everything went well, which we fully expected it would.

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I hadn’t eaten anything since before I was admitted and I was starving, so we ordered lunch and then were taken to our postpartum room. My epidural was almost worn off by then, except for in my right leg, which was still completely numb, so I still couldn’t stand up at all. Transport took me in a wheelchair, and then tried to awkwardly start helping me into the bed when Ryan just scooped me up effortlessly and placed me in the bed. We rested, took turns holding Brody and continued to FaceTime our family in Indiana and spent most of the evening in baby bliss. Brody had his first bath and passed his hearing screening with flying colors. Then the nurse gave us some news that we weren’t expecting. His blood results determined that he was Coombs positive. His blood type was B positive, and mine was O negative, and apparently these two blood types don’t get along. I thought that receiving the Rhogam shot during my pregnancy would prevent these types of issues, but apparently they don’t prevent all issues. First, the opposite Rh factor can cause problems, and there is also an ABO incompatibility that can occur, where my O blood made antibodies against my baby’s B blood. This caused his blood to hemolyze, or break down his red blood cells and release bilirubin, causing jaundice. High bilirubin levels in a newborn can be very dangerous if left untreated, possibly causing brain damage. I didn’t really understand the severity of it at the time, because I heard that newborns are jaundice quite often, and it usually just goes away on its own. The nurse said if his bilirubin level isn’t better by morning, we might not be able to go home yet. Again, I assumed it would all be fine, and I didn’t worry too much about it. In the mean time, Brody was nursing well, or so I thought. I knew that it takes a few days for a mother’s milk to come in, but in the mean time, they are getting colostrum. The nurse told us that it’s normal for newborns to lose some weight after birth, but we had to really watch Brody’s weight because it was getting a little too low for comfort. Again, I didn’t think much of it. I knew that this was the norm, and both of my other kids had to have multiple weight checks at their pediatrician after being discharged, so I assumed this would be the case for Brody as well.

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Monday, May 18

The next day was supposed to be discharge day. Brody was scheduled for his circumcision that morning, then after being monitored for a few hours, we were supposed to be able to go home. Dr. Venable was the neonatologist who came in to exam Brody and do his circumcision. Right away, we loved this doctor, because she was very good at explaining things and very compassionate as well. His circumcision went great, and he was supposed to have one more blood draw and weight check to determine if we could go home. In the mean time, Brody was insanely sleepy from his circumcision, and he wouldn’t nurse well. The lactation specialist said this is normal after a procedure, and suggested hand expressing some colostrum to supplement until he woke up better to nurse on his own. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but hand-expressing a liquid the consistency of honey with carpal tunnel hands is not fun nor easy.  A couple hours later, Dr. Venable told us she was concerned not only about Brody’s bilirubin level, but also his weight loss. At this point, he had lost 10% of his birth weight, which is more than she felt comfortable with, so she suggested supplementing, either by pumping or with formula. We would supplement for 2 feedings and see where we were at with his weight. I really didn’t want to resort to formula yet, so I tried pumping first. My milk still wasn’t fully in yet, so he got a bit more colostrum. For the next feeding, Dr. Venable highly suggested trying formula, but she definitely did not push it. She told me that she has seen this situation many times and even if he had to take formula now doesn’t mean he always would, and if I keep pumping, he could eventually go back to exclusive breastfeeding once things were better. We took her advice to give him the best chance.

Shortly after, he had another bili and weight check, and Dr. Venable came back with some bad news. Brody’s bilirubin needed to be 9 or less, and it had increased to 11, AND his weight loss was now at 11%, so they couldn’t discharge him. I was so bummed, mainly because I knew how excited the kids were to meet their brother, and now they would have to wait even longer to meet him. The doctor hated having to give us this news, and she felt terrible, but she helped us come up with the next step for Brody to get him home soon. He would spend the rest of the day and night doing phototherapy, or bili lights. Normally, our bodies get rid of bilirubin by pooping. Phototherapy helps make bilirubin water soluable, so it can be released by peeing as well. We also had to make sure that Brody was eating enough to not only help his weight, but help him pee and poop more to get rid of the bilirubin.  So that night, Brody had to be under the bili lights until he needed to eat. After nursing, Ryan would feed him formula while I pumped so I wouldn’t lose any progress on my milk supply. He had a bili check that night and his level had gone down, so the phototherapy was working! They decided to stop phototherapy to see if his bilirubin level rebounded.

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Tuesday, May 19

The next morning, we were hopeful for better news. Brody had been peeing a lot and pooping some, so I was hopeful that with supplementing, he was getting enough to eat now, which should help both his weight and his bilirubin level. At this point, I was still a patient as well, but I was supposed to be discharged on this day. If I was discharged, but Brody wasn’t, I would have to stay to be there with him, but Ryan would have to leave. Because of COVID-19, women who were admitted to L&D could have just one support person. Once I was discharged, that support person could no longer be there. Knowing this, I was SO anxious and praying so hard that Brody would be better and we could all go home. When Dr. Venable walked in our room, I could tell by the look in her eyes that she did not have good news. Brody and I had to stay, Ryan had to leave. I was an absolute emotional mess. I was only 2 days postpartum, and now my husband had to leave and I had to deal with the physical and emotional stress of caring for my newborn alone, without being allowed to leave the hospital room. The good news at least was that with supplementing, Brody’s weight was getting better. His bilirubin, however, was not. It continued to spike to scary levels for his little body to handle. We would have to continue formula supplementing simply to increase his output in hopes of his bilirubin dropping. Again, Dr. Venable felt terrible. She is a mom herself, so she understood how difficult this was for us. She even tried to think of ideas on how to keep me admitted to the hospital so that Ryan could stay, but we learned that regardless of being discharged or not, the current policy was that my 1 visitor could stay with me for up to 48 hours only. The nurse that was on staff that day said Ryan could stay with me until shift change at 7pm, so Ryan spent the time leading up to him having to leave trying to console me and convince me that I was strong enough to handle this, which I definitely did not feel that I was. This was a very emotionally low evening for me, and I couldn’t stop crying. However, I also knew that it was probably good for Ryan to get home to our other kids to be the extra help and calming support they needed.

That night was a rough one. Brody was under bili lights again, and every 2.5 hours I would have to nurse him, put him back under the lights to formula feed him, change his diaper, then pump to keep up my milk supply. By the time I completed all of this, I would have maybe 30-45 minutes to rest and then do it all over again. And whenever I did have a small stretch of potential sleep, the temperature censors on the phototherapy machine would act up and beep loudly, so the nurse had to continuously come back in and fix it. The nurses weren’t as helpful as I had hoped since Ryan wasn’t there, but to be honest, I didn’t want them in my room much since I had to wear a mask when someone else was in my room.

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Wednesday, May 20

The next day, I was completely sleep deprived. I was surviving on about 2 hours of sleep from the last few days. This definitely didn’t help my emotions, which were a complete roller coaster. I cried all. the. time. Especially when I would talk to, or even think about Kinsie and Brax. I missed them so much, and I was so sad that they hadn’t gotten to meet Brody yet. I was also freaking out because at this point, we were moving out of the state in 10 days, and here I was stuck in a hospital room for who knows how long. I was also worried about my little Brody. During my days at the hospital, I learned more about bilirubin levels than I ever cared to know. Dr. Venable continued to be extremely kind and supportive, while teaching me about bilirubin and the treatment threshold in a way that I could understand. I knew that Brody would eventually get better. Eventually, his body would figure this all out and his red blood cells would stop breaking down…we just didn’t know when that would happen. Not much changed with his progress. He continued to be under the bili lights, his levels would slightly drop, they would take him off the lights, and his level would spike again. Each day drug on so slowly. I felt like a caged animal because I literally couldn’t go anywhere, and I had lived on terrible hospital food for several days now. I was up at all hours of the night and would be starving at 3am and was out of the snacks I packed in my hospital bag. Ryan called me on this day to see how I was doing, and then he told me to look out the window. Ryan, my mom, and the kids were outside my window with signs waving at us. I was bawling! I was so happy to see them, and it made me and Brody feel so loved. They couldn’t stay long because Brax had his school’s drive-through parade soon, which I was sad that I was missing. My mom recorded the entire thing for me so I could at least watch Brax see his teachers again.

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Again, the rest of that day was a blur. I remember more bili lights and more bili checks. I remember Ryan talking on speaker phone to Dr. Venable asking her to make sure the nurses helped me more since I was sleep deprived. I remember my milk coming in…intensely. I was grateful for this, but also in a lot of pain from engorgement. Luckily now I didn’t have to supplement with formula anymore, but now I was supplementing with breast milk. Dr. Venable came into my room that evening before she left and gave me some encouragement. She wasn’t going to be working the next day, so she wanted to let me know which doctor would be on shift, and that she had informed this doctor how important it was to try to get us home. Before she left my room, she saw my tattoo that says “It is well.” She saw her opportunity and told me that my tattoo is very timely for our current circumstances. She reminded me that God is with me, He will never leave me, and it will all be well in the end. I was so grateful for Dr. Venable, and I later looked her up on Facebook and found out she’s a pastor’s wife! I contacted her a few days later and let her know how grateful I was for her medical and spiritual guidance throughout this difficult process.

Thursday, May 21

The previous night was more of the same. Bili lights, nursing, pumping, supplementing, no sleep, bili checks, repeat. This was the day that I was really aiming to be home, because Kinsie had her drive-through Kindergarten graduation at noon and I REALLY wanted to be there with her, but sadly I was not hopeful that it would happen. Brody’s most recent bili check was at 4am that morning, and it was 12.4, which wasn’t as low as they were hoping, so that pretty much meant we were there to stay a while longer. I knew the drill. I was used to it at this point. I was emotionally numb to it. Once I knew for sure that we were staying, I asked Ryan to bring me more clothes and some snacks. He also snuck me in a breakfast chicken burrito from Chick-fil-A to give me a break from the hospital food. He wasn’t allowed to come up to the room, but he dressed somewhat nicely so he looked “official” to see just how far he could get into the hospital before someone stopped him. I think he got as far as the elevator on the postpartum floor, and then a nurse took over and brought the stuff to my room. When I opened the bag, I also found a sweet, encouraging note signed by him, the kids, and my mom.

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There was a new doctor that day, Dr. Andrews, who was also very kind and empathetic, and clearly had a thorough explanation of our experience so far from Dr. Venable. At this point, Brody’s levels were only maintaining from phototherapy, they weren’t even dropping much anymore. She gave me a few options for that day… Option #1 increase the amount of lights on him and check his level again around 2pm…if his level decreases enough, we could take him off and check for his rebound level. If his rate of rise was low enough, we could potentially be discharged that night. Option #2 Increase the lights and keep him under for another 24 hours to drive his level down as much as possible. After discussing it with Ryan, we decided to go with option #1. In the mean time, Kinsie had her drive-through graduation. Ryan attached his Go-Pro camera to Kinsie’s side of the car so he could record the whole thing. Of course, as I watched, I bawled like a baby. It was so precious, and I was so sad that I couldn’t be there, but I loved seeing her sweet smile as she saw her Kindergarten teacher cheering for her and saying the sweetest goodbye.

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After his next check, his levels finally dropped some (12.4 to 11.2), so they decided to take him off the lights and see what happens. The plan was to check his level again around 7pm, and if his level went up less than 1 point, we could go home. This was such a long few hours, but I spent the entire time holding my sweet boy. Since he spent most of his time under the lights, I took any opportunity I could to hold him. I could barely eat dinner, and I could barely even pay attention to an episode of Parks and Recreation. To be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful. Every time I had been hopeful before, I was let down. I was fully expecting bad news, but the idea of possibly getting out of that hospital that night was so nice to think about.

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I knew that shift change was also at 7pm, so I waited a good 15 minutes  after 7pm before calling for the nurse to see if they would take him for his check soon. Of course I ended up with a nurse who had taken 3 months off to do research and this was her first shift back so her login for the computer system wasn’t working. She finally came in about 30 minutes later to take him for his check, and then again, we waited for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like 45 minutes. I don’t think the nurse understood just how important this check was to us and how much we’d been through at this point, because she finally walked in nonchalantly saying, “Ok I’ve got your discharge paperwork!” I didn’t understand at first, then I finally said, “We’re going home!?!?” And again, as if it were no big deal, she responded with, “Yep, his level was 11.9.” And cue the happy tears! We were finally coming home! I called Ryan right away and he was out the door immediately to come pick us up. It was around 9:30pm at this point, so I knew the kids would be in bed, but I could surprise them in the morning. I can’t even explain the feeling I had as I had FINALLY been let out of that hospital room. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days. I was so happy to see Ryan, and he had made a “Coming Home” playlist for me on Spotify while he was waiting. I couldn’t wait to be in my own house (even though it was a disaster from moving prep), sleep in my own bed and see my other two kids in the morning.

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Friday, May 22

We didn’t sleep much that night, but that was ok. I was still so happy to be home and couldn’t wait to hug my other babies. When the kids started to wake up, Ryan went to go get them from their rooms and told them he had a surprise. He brought them out to the living room, and then I walked in from the kitchen with Brody! They were SO excited. We hugged for a long time, and I didn’t want to let them go. They took turns holding and admiring Brody. Unfortunately it couldn’t last too long because I had to take Brody back to the hospital for another bili check that morning.

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We went in that morning for his bili check, and it was at 13.8. We knew it was likely to rise, but it was still rising at a rate that we really had to watch closely. They sent us home and asked us to come back again the next day. When we got home, we didn’t get much done. We all sat around and loved and admired our sweet Brody boy.

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Saturday, May 23

Again, we had to go back in to the hospital for yet another bili check. Each time we went in, I was super nervous. We knew at some point, his level should start dropping, we just didn’t know when. I basically had the newborn bilirubin treatment level chart memorized, so each time we went in, we had an idea of what level we needed to stay under to avoid readmission and more treatment. During this check, his level went up to 17. This definitely wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Even though his level was continuing to rise and somewhat quickly, the doctor told me she wasn’t going to admit us just yet, but asked that I start supplementing with formula again. We knew he was getting enough of my milk since his weight was good and he had plenty of wet and dirty diapers, but she simply wanted to maximize his output to flush out the bilirubin. We bought some formula on the way home, and I was super bummed and anxious that this still wasn’t over.

As the day went on, we tried to balance our time packing and spending time with Brody. Later in the afternoon, I noticed he seemed really sleepy…more than usual. When it was time to feed him, he wouldn’t wake up enough to eat. We tried undressing him, jostling him, changing his diaper…nothing woke him enough to nurse. Right away I was worried, especially because his skin tone seemed even more yellow than it had previously. Ryan prepared a bottle of formula to see if he would take that just to give him something, and he took it, but never really woke up. Afterwards, he called the hospital and told them what was going on, and they suggested going to the NICU at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Again, I was very worried, but I knew he would get the best care at this hospital. Ryan knew how scary this all was for me, and he had worked many shifts at the children’s hospital emergency department, so he calmly explained to me what they were going to do with Brody when we got there. He said when babies come in with a fever or are lethargic, the doctors have to be extra cautious and prepare for a possible infection. They receive a whole work up, usually including labs, a possible lumbar puncture, antibiotics, etc. He wanted to prepare me ahead of time so I would know what to expect. We knew that Ryan wouldn’t be able to come in with us because of the COVID-19 guidelines. We also knew that we would more than likely be admitted and be staying overnight. I packed a bag and Ryan drove us to the hospital. We had to check in through the emergency department, but since Ryan had called ahead, they let us skip the ED and took us straight to the NICU, which was good so we could avoid sick kids.

When we got up to the NICU, I was so overwhelmed. There were about 10 nurses and/or doctors in our room doing different things to Brody. All of this craziness finally woke him up, and he was screaming like I had never heard him scream before. This was so hard to hear, but also somewhat reassuring since he had been so lethargic earlier. With how Brody was responding, the doctor felt better about things and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t an infection, and he definitely wasn’t septic. They still did lots of labs, but were luckily able to skip the lumbar puncture and antibiotics. Since he was wide awake now and very hungry, they let me nurse him, and he did so much better than earlier. This was also very reassuring. They did a bili check, and also had to test him for COVID-19. This was standard for NICU patients, but I knew how unpleasant the testing experience was, and it killed me to watch my week-old baby have to go through it as well. His bili level came back at 19…scary high. This explains why he was acting the way he was earlier at home. The plan was the same as it was before we left the hospital at UAMS…more phototherapy. Ryan had created a group text called “Prayers for Brody” with both of our families, but left me out of it since I already had enough to deal with. That way, I could just update him, and then he would update our families. Our night in the NICU was long, but I was in a better head space here. Brody was almost a week old, so I knew that his little body should be figuring this thing out soon, and I also knew we did the right thing by bringing him in. Luckily, the NICU didn’t have quite as strict of rules as they did at UAMS. I didn’t have to wear a mask in my own room, and I was allowed to leave the room to go get food or coffee. This was HUGE for my mental health. Ryan was even able to bring me dinner once, and I went out to the car to eat it with him. It also helped that the NICU staff was so compassionate and kind and really loved on Brody and me during our stay, which is what we both needed. That night, I slept on the very uncomfortable cot next to Brody’s little bed, and I slept like a rock. I’d wake up when it was time to feed him, but then I slept so hard in between feedings. I was so unbelievably exhausted and my body needed sleep so badly.

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They checked his level around 10pm, and it had dropped to 17.5. Another bili check at 5am was at 15.5, so it was definitely dropping. They continued him on the lights and we decided to check him again about 7 hours later and see if we could take him off the lights and check for his rebound. In the meantime, I was able to give Ryan a code to watch Brody on the baby cam they had set up in his room. He set it up on the big screen in our house so they could all watch him at home!

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The next bili check was around noon and this one would determine if we would turn the lights off. The results came back at 14, which was a good drop! He got to come out from under the lights and get retested around 7pm. The doctor said if he stays under 16, we could go home. Again, I spent most of that afternoon snuggling with Brody. At one point, the nurse even came in and said she knows I must be exhausted and I could take a nap if I wanted, but I didn’t want to put him down.

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During the last hour or so, I started to get really anxious and pessimistic. I didn’t think the results would be good, and I really really didn’t want to spend another night in the hospital. I talked to Ryan for a while so he could try to talk me down and help me find some hope in the current situation. Again, Brody’s bili check was scheduled right at shift change, which is always a chaotic time. The nurse that took over was very nice, but she was older and slower. She came in and talked to me about random things like my hometown and how she had a friend from there and they would always go out to eat at O’Charley’s when she would visit. Again, she was super nice…but I really didn’t have the mental capacity for small talk at that moment. After a while, she came in with GOOD NEWS!! Brody’s level was at 15.1! I was so happy and relieved, but also still a little worried since we had to be rechecked in the morning, and there was a chance his level could continue to rise like it did before. However, I relished in the moment and was so happy to see Ryan again, and to see the kids in the morning.

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The next morning, we went in for yet another bili check. I was super nervous, and fully expected another rise. Every time I brought him in for another check and was waiting for lab results, I researched everything I possibly could about bilirubin levels, ABO incompatibility, hematocrit levels, you name it. Not that it actually helped, but I needed something to keep my mind busy. A doctor came out to inform me of the results, which made me nervous, because usually when it was good news, a nurse told me, and when it was bad news, a doctor told me. HOWEVER, this doctor had the best news I had heard in over a week in store for me. Brody’s bilirubin level DROPPED to 13.3! This was the first time that his level ever dropped without treatment! This was HUGE because now this meant that his blood was most likely done breaking down those red blood cells and his bilirubin level should continue to drop…making it no longer be an issue! HALLELUJAH!

The next day we had Brody’s newborn checkup at the pediatrician’s office. Side note: we scheduled this appointment about 6 times, and continued to have to cancel because we hadn’t been discharged from the hospital yet. We couldn’t get in with our normal pediatrician, so we saw another doctor, and he was wonderful. We had to give him all the hospital paperwork and give him the rundown on everything that Brody had gone through so far, and he was supposed to get one more bili check to make sure that his level continued to drop. They did the lab, but wouldn’t have the results right away. Brody did great at his appointment, and even gained weight since birth! The doctor personally called me later in the afternoon with more wonderful news…Brody’s bilirubin level was 11.7. We were FINALLY out of the woods! For the first time since Brody was born, I could finally take a deep, full breath and get a good night’s rest (as good as you can with a newborn anyway!)

So now, we could finally fully enjoy being a family of five. The kids loved on Brody more than ever and were so grateful that all of this was now behind us. Now, we could move on to the next major life event…moving across the country in 5 days! The kids and I would be moving to Indiana while Ryan stayed in Arkansas to finish his last month of residency.

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The last few months have just been a series of challenging events. Between the pandemic, losing both my grandma and my dog, having a baby with hyperbiliunemia, and then moving…there is only one explanation on how I made it through all of it…GOD. There is no way I could have gotten through all of these major life changes and stressors without God carrying me through it. I also have to give a lot of credit to my mom…she went through the fire with us. She was the one packing up the majority of the house while I was in the hospital, while taking care of my kids and having to explain to them why their mommy and brother couldn’t come home yet. We literally couldn’t have gotten through all of this without her love, help and support. I also have to give a major shout out to my amazing husband. Just thinking about how amazing Ryan was through all of this makes me cry. He was my rock, and always knew how to calm me down and help me mentally push through. He was also there for the kids when they needed him, as well as being a wonderful doctor, always trying to learn and understand more so he could help make the best decisions for Brody. God knew exactly what kind of man I needed in my life, and he blessed me beyond what I deserve with him. Finally, I need to give some credit to my sweet little Brody. He was an absolute champ throughout all of this. He spent the majority of his first week of life almost naked under bright lights with a mask on, and was basically a pin cushion from all the blood they drew from his tiny little body. Even though I hated watching him being poked and prodded all week, he handled it better than most adults ever could, and I know he is already stronger from this experience.

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I’m still somewhat experiencing a level of PTSD from everything that happened. Reliving it all through this post was tough, and took me several days, not only because I don’t have much free time, but also because it was too much on me emotionally to go through it all again in one sitting. However, I also look back and realize just how much we’ve been through in a few short weeks, and how much stronger we all became as individuals, as well as a family. I am now much more aware that all of this was in God’s hands the whole time, not my own. He knew that I needed this reminder, as well as this weight lifted off of me, and I am so grateful for that.

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Even though having a baby and being in the hospital for a week in the middle of a global pandemic was one of the hardest experiences of my life, I wouldn’t trade my Brody Ryan for anything in the world. This is part of his story now, and we will never forget it.

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One Crazy May

The last few months have been absolute insanity. And when I think that things can’t possibly get any crazier, they do. May turned out to be extremely exhausting and emotional, but also amazing since our sweet baby boy was born!

Here is a recap of our crazy month…

Brax’s 4th Birthday

Our boy Brax turned 4 this month!! Even before the pandemic, we knew that his birthday would have to be low-key because we knew that I would either be super pregnant, or have a newborn. Luckily we had a beautiful day to work with, so we filled our sweet boy’s day with lots of fun right from home!

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My sister and her family wanted to surprise Brax with donuts in the morning, so they called and ordered them at a nearby donut shop and my mom picked them up. He loved the surprise from his aunt, uncle and cousins!

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Brax was thrilled to get a new bike for his birthday from us! He spent a good portion of his day practicing riding it. We also had a picnic lunch in our front yard, a water balloon fight with Daddy, and sprinkler and pool fun.

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After we came inside, we ordered his favorite dinner, pizza. After pizza, we called our families for a Zoom birthday song and cake. He loved getting to see everyone even though they all couldn’t be there.

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Even though we never left the house, our boy seemed to have a great 4th birthday! And I was thrilled that Brax would still have his own birthday…I was genuinely nervous that the baby would come that day. Luckily (and surprisingly), he didn’t come for another couple weeks!

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While we packed…

We had a LOT of work to do before we moved at the end of the month. My mom started packing whenever she could, and I spent half the month as a beached whale who could hardly roll over, so the most I could help was sitting with my mom and telling her what to pack and where. It was super frustrating because I felt useless. Anyway, one of the hardest parts about packing is entertaining your kids. They are usually good about entertaining themselves, but when they are watching you pack all of their toys, it often causes some issues! They spent some time dressing up, making forts, and drawing lots and lots of pictures. Kinsie recently discovered a YouTube Channel that teaches you how to draw hundreds of different animals and characters. She spent countless hours drawing during the moving process!

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It rained a lot this May, but we would still try to get the kids outside whenever we could so they wouldn’t kill each other. They came up with obstacle courses, random games, and drew lots of PinkFong creations with sidewalk chalk.

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Lots of walks trying to help get baby out…

I had been physically miserable for quite some time at this point. I was shocked that the baby hadn’t come sooner based on how I felt. I was so desperate to get him out, and tried to do whatever I could to help the process…mainly lots and lots of walks. We obviously couldn’t take long walks because my feet would get too swollen, but we took as many short walks as we could. One of our favorite walks was at a different lake in our town, closer to the kids’ school. There’s a giant swan that lives at that lake, so the kids call it “Swan Lake.” It was a beautiful walk with lots of wildlife, including the swan, a family of ducks, turtles, and fish. The kids loved it and could have spent hours following the duck family!

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We also walked around the lake by our house. We always looked for wildlife to keep the kids entertained. During one of our walks, Ryan found a speckled king snake and PICKED IT UP. He is crazy. This particular type of snake is docile, and he had a good hold of it and Kinsie even touched it. Later on this same walk, we found a turtle, which Kinsie fell in love with and would have taken home if we let her!

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We did the swan lake walk on Mother’s Day as well. Ryan was off for paternity leave at this point, so he was able to join us for a Subway picnic and more wildlife watching. This was the first Mother’s Day that I’ve gotten to spend with my mom since we moved here. I not only loved spending Mother’s Day with her, but I was beyond grateful for the time she spent with us in Arkansas. She was absolutely crucial to us this month with everything that went down and I am so blessed to have her love and support.

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Last Day of School…Quarantine Style

Obviously the kids’ school year did not end the way we expected it to end, and we all had our moments of grief with this fact. However, I am so impressed with my kids on how they handled everything. They were still excited to take “Last Day of School” pictures. I always love seeing how much they’ve grown during a school year!

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Graduations and End of Year Parades

Since the pandemic caused all school and events to be cancelled, Kinsie’s school decided to have a drive-through Kindergarten graduation ceremony. It was SO precious and she got her certificates and got to say goodbye to her teacher. Brax’s school also had a drive-through farewell parade. Unfortunately, I was not able to be there because I was still in the hospital with the baby (I’ll tell the whole story in his birth story coming soon), but Ryan and my mom recorded both events and took pictures for me.

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Here is the video Ryan took with his Go-Pro of Kinsie’s graduation

 

Introducing Brody Ryan Matthews!

The biggest and most anticipated event of our month…the birth of our precious baby boy, Brody Ryan Matthews. He was born on May 17 at 10:24am. He was 7 lbs, 14 oz. and 21 inches long. He is the absolute sweetest baby and we are all so obsessed with him. We ended up spending about a week in the hospital due to high bilirubin levels, which I will explain in full detail in his upcoming birth story. Luckily now, he is doing much better and we’ve enjoyed welcoming him home into our family!

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Lots of love for Brody

Brody only got to live in Arkansas for about 2 weeks before we moved. While we continued packing our house, the kids spent most of their time fighting over who got to hold Brody. The love playing with him on his playmat and reading lots of books to him!

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Brody’s First Walk

Before we moved, I really wanted to take Brody on a walk around our favorite park. Even though he slept the whole time, we all enjoyed our first and last walk at our park as a family of five.

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Brody’s First Bath

Kinsie was thrilled to get to help with Brody’s first sponge bath!

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Moving Day!

Brody and I were only home for about a week before we had to load up the moving trucks and hit the road to Indiana! My dad and Ryan’s parents came down to help us load up and drive. It was a crazy, exhausting, busy few days but we made it! Ryan even drove one of the UHAUL trucks, helped us get settled, then flew back down to Little Rock to finish out his month. This definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to finish our time in Arkansas, but we are already planning a trip in the future to come back and visit our friends and our favorite places.

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My mom helped drive with me and my kids. It took us about 12 hours since we had to stop every few hours to feed the baby. He did amazing on his first road trip!

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RV’s for MD’s

Since we had to be out of our house on May 30 and Ryan still had to finish his contract, he needed a place to live for the month of June. He thought about staying with a friend, but most of his closest friends had new babies, and he didn’t want to impose on a family or cause potential exposure. My friend told me about a Facebook group called “RV’s for MD’s” where people who own RV’s offer to let frontline workers live in their RV so they don’t expose their families to the coronavirus. I joined the group and we were able to find the nicest family in Little Rock who had a huge, full-sized RV. They made dure the RV was clean and fully-stocked and they even gave us a baby gift! We worked it out to park it at the RV Park in downtown Little Rock right by the river. It is such a neat program and we were so grateful that Ryan had a safe place to live!

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May was exhausting, and I’m glad it is over. However, it will be a month I will never forget for the rest of my life because I had a baby and moved across the country within 2 weeks! The kids and I are staying with my parents for the month of June, then when Ryan is finished, he’ll come to Indiana and we will live in a rental house while our house is being built. Things are still crazy trying to get settled and dealing with 2 kids and a newborn, but I am just so grateful for a healthy baby and the fact that we are closer to home!

Stay tuned for Brody’s full birth story and more summer fun in the upcoming months!

Here is our May 1 Second Everyday…enjoy!

 

April Quarantine Adventures

Time is so weird. It seems like time is standing still right now, and that we are repeating the same day over and over again like the movie Groundhogs Day. However, here we are…already in May. It is officially baby month AND moving month! Never in a million years did I think we would be quarantined at home during a global pandemic homeschooling our kids, all while preparing for a baby and a move to another state. Life is crazy. And just when I think things will calm down, it often gets crazier and harder. We are so grateful for our family, and most importantly, our faith to get us through day by day.

Here is a recap of our month…

Quarantine Life

Overall, our every day has consisted of pretty much the same stuff. Wake up, have breakfast, let the kids play or watch a show, do schoolwork, find something to keep them busy and happy for the afternoon, have dinner, go to bed, repeat. I am on complete survival mode with being 9 months pregnant, so I’ve tried to give myself grace about not doing all the exciting Pinterest-worthy projects and activities that I see other moms doing right now. When it’s nice outside, we go outside. When it’s not, we stay busy inside with modeling clay, FaceTime with family, coloring, and building box houses. Overall, the kids have been fantastic throughout all of this. Yes they fight more, and yes they get extra emotional about things because they don’t know how else to let out their frustration with this crazy life we are currently living. But overall, I have been so impressed with how they’ve handled everything.

We try to go on small, random adventures when we can. Every once in a while, the director of Brax’s school will put out the treasure box in front of the school so the kids can come by and pick a treasure. Sometimes we go get slushies during Sonic Happy Hour. Any small errand to give us a change of scenery is good for our souls!

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We’ve had lots of nice days, but every so often we get a small dose of summer weather. We’ve had a few swim suit, sprinkler and water table days. The kids love it, their large pregnant mama struggles with the heat. It makes the kids happy though, so I manage with lots of water, shade, and the large fan in the garage.

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On other nice days, the kids find all kinds of random games and activities outside. Cornhole, nature scavenger hunts, climbing trees, you name it. They have great imaginations so they can pretty much stay busy in any environment.

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Grateful for Easter

Ryan’s sister’s family was originally going to visit for Easter, but obviously everyone’s travel plans changed. Luckily, Ryan still scheduled Easter weekend off so he could spend that time with us.

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Usually this is an activity I do with the kids when Ryan is working…just for something to do. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do this tradition this year since my carpal tunnel syndrome is so bad. Instead, we just made the cookies with Ryan so he could help!

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Another one of our favorite Easter traditions is to dye eggs. The kids got extra fancy this year and even added some extra sparkly paint!

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We knew Easter day was supposed to include lots of rain, so we planned our big Easter egg hunt the day before. We stuffed them with treats and hid them around the yard and the kids loved hopping around like bunnies finding the eggs.

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The kids loved seeing their surprises from the Easter bunny on Easter morning!

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Even though we didn’t go anywhere, the kids (mainly Kinsie) wanted to wear their Easter clothes that I originally bought them. We took the opportunity to still take a few Easter pics! It definitely wasn’t the Easter we were used to or planned on, but we still got to spend time together as a family, watch a wonderful and much-needed Easter church service, and be reminded of the good news of Easter. To be honest, it couldn’t have been more perfect timing for that good news!

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Other Big Events

Kinsie had been working hard on her second wiggly tooth for a couple weeks. The day before Easter, she decided she wanted to lose that tooth that day so that the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny could both come to our house that night (she got this idea from her cousin Briggs, who did the same thing on Christmas Eve) That tooth was quite stubborn and took us a while, but Kinsie was determined. She finally got it out and was so excited to see her money and a note from the tooth fairy the next morning!

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We officially closed on our home! We move out at the end of May and will be headed back to our home state! We will live with my parents for the summer, then live in a rental while we build our dream home. It’s a lot of planning and extra chaos, but we could not be more excited!

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Pregnancy Updates

We are coming down the home stretch! For a little while, I honestly thought this might be an April baby. He’s still cooking though, and I’m hoping he stays put a few more days so that Brax still has his own birthday! Overall, this pregnancy has flown by…until the last few weeks. I am currently 37 (almost 38) weeks, and I am READY. My sister always told me that her third pregnancy was the hardest on her body, and I can definitely relate to that!

Updates/Symptoms:

  • I am very physically uncomfortable. Like…all the time. This includes heavy pelvic pressure and severe ligament pain.
  • I’ve had pretty consistent Braxton Hicks contractions the last week.
  • I’m guessing baby is putting more pressure on my bladder…because I need to use the restroom about every half hour.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is still a problem, getting worse. Hoping I can get a cortisone injection soon to help this problem because it is hard to function.
  • Lots of hot flashes, especially at night.
  • I am very emotional – hello hormones!

In this photo, I was 36 weeks – baby is about the size of a small watermelon.

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I’m not usually much of a mirror selfie person, but this could be my last pregnancy (we haven’t made any decisions about this yet), so I figured I’d try to document as much of this bump as I could.

34 weeks

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Easter Day – 35 weeks

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My mom has been planning for a while now to come help us when the baby comes…mainly to watch the big kids while Ryan and I are in the hospital. With my level of physical discomfort and the fact that I haven’t been able to use my hands much without hurting, she decided to come early and we were SO grateful. The kids have been loving their Yaya time, and she has been helping me so much, especially when Ryan is at work. Here is a sweet video of the kids’ reactions when she arrived.

Most of the time, I’ve been trying to just take it easy and relax as much as possible. However, I’ve also been trying to “loosen things up” and help the process along, and enjoy the lovely Arkansas spring weather one last time, so we’ve been going on short walks when I’m up for it. The kids love walking with me, and they often use it as an opportunity to have nature scavenger hunts and watch the ducks and turtles.

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It’s only a matter of time that this little boy will be making his grand entrance into this world and into our hearts. Stay tuned!

A Month of Loss

March was hard. Then April came along and said, “Hold my beer.” I genuinely did not expect April to bring about even harder and darker days than what we were already experiencing.

Abuelita

The day after Easter, my sweet and beautiful Abuelita went to heaven. Her mind had been trapped by dementia for the last decade, so even though it was hard to lose her physically, it’s at least refreshing to know that both her body and mind are free now. She was the absolute epitome of love. Whether she knew you or not, if you were in her immediate presence, you could feel her love. We always said she “threw love at strangers,” so I’m sure you could imagine the love she poured on her family. Some of my favorite memories of her included her many lipstick-marked kisses, her homemade authentic Mexican meals she often cooked for us, her serenading us in Spanish, or giving us the earrings that she was wearing because we told her we liked them. We were also lucky enough to go on many vacations with her and my Grandpa Beto, and the memories made on those trips will be cherished forever. It’s hard knowing I’ll never see her again here in this life, but I rejoice for her that she is free in Heaven with the love of her life, Beto, and her Heavenly Father.

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Addie

Two days after my grandma passed, our sweet family dog Addie passed away as well. This one really blindsided us because her sickness came so quickly, we really did not have time to process or prepare for what was about to happen. She was throwing up for just one day, and we even took her to the vet and they assumed it was just a stomach bug. The next day, she passed away. We were all devastated and really struggled to understand what happened to her. She was not even 10 years old, and she recently struggled with arthritis, but we think something in her stomach or bowels developed, and there really would have been no time to do anything about it even if we would have had labs and blood work done.

 

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We had Addie since before we were married, so we have many happy memories with her. She was the sweetest, most loving pup, and she had SO much patience for our crazy kids. With the quarantine in place, we spent all of our time with her during the last month of her life, which is exactly what she would have wanted. Her favorite place in the world was wherever we were!

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Addie was the best snuggling buddy!

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Here is a picture that Kinsie drew at the end of our rough week. From left to right it includes her fish Hedwig (who died last August), Jesus, Grandma Graves (Ryan’s grandma who passed away in December 2017), Addie, and my Grandma Vargas. Of course when she showed me, I immediately started crying!

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It was important to all of us that we bring Addie with us when we move, so we found a pet cremation company. We got back a beautiful box with her name engraved on the top, and my personal favorite, a heart with her paw print imprinted into it. You can tell its definitely her paw print, because it includes her long fingernails that she would hardly ever let us cut!

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Like I said, it was a harder month than we expected, but we are sticking together as a family to help each other grieve. We still miss our Addie every day, and it has been tough finding our new normal without her companionship. We have so many wonderful memories with her so we try to focus on those to help get us through.

We are hopeful that May will be a month filled with joy and good news…we definitely need it!

Here is our April 1 Second Everyday video. Still lots of love and laughter to fill even our difficult days.

The March that Nobody Expected

Our March started out great, and we were looking forward to listing our house, and visiting Indiana to start house-hunting. Well as you all know, things took an unexpected turn for the entire world with the global pandemic, COVID-19. This virus turned everyone’s world upside down. For our family personally, it has been really hard with me being very pregnant with 2 kids now fully at home since schools are closed until further notice…and all of this while I was trying to get the house prepared to put on the market. Most importantly, Ryan works in the emergency department, so he is on the frontlines of this battle, which is the scariest part. We have been social distancing and doing e-learning and trying to come up with creative ways to let the kids get their energy out, but the idea that Ryan has the risk of being exposed every time he steps into work has caused me a great deal of anxiety. I have gone through several stages of emotions this month…from full on panic and anxiety, to somewhat acceptance UNTIL another major change happens, to anticipating more major changes and trying to find mental peace when they happen, and so on…but overall, the only thing that is really getting me through this is my faith. When I feel weak, I pray. When I feel hopeless, I pray. When I feel anxious, I pray. When I feel overwhelmed, I pray. I hate to admit that I haven’t been living this way the last few months. With so much going on in our lives, I’ve just been a little energizer bunny constantly going and doing and taking control of every situation and marking things off my checklist like a mad woman. God has really used this pandemic as an opportunity to humble me and make me slow down and let go of the control that I thought I had and just trust Him. This month has been so hard and scary, and I know the pandemic isn’t even over yet, but I am grateful that God has used it to open my eyes and realize that I need to fully trust Him.

With all that said, here is a rundown of our crazy month…

Enjoying the weather (pre-pandemic)

March has always been one of my favorite months, and in Arkansas, the weather is usually amazing from March – May before the intense summer heat comes. Ryan worked a lot of weekends and nights early on, so the kids and I had to find activities that I  could physically manage and still let them run around. Before COVID-19 came around, we still made trips to our favorite park as often as we could!

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Book Character Day

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday week, Kinsie’s school had several dress-up days focused around Dr. Seuss books, such as “Cat in the Hat” day (wear a hat), “Fox in Socks” day (wear crazy socks), etc. On Friday of this week, the kids got to dress as any book character and bring the book if they had it. Kinsie chose to dress as Pinkalicious! I always loved book character day as a teacher, and I’m so glad that I got to help Kinsie be a part of it now!

BookCharacterDay

Wye Daffodil Festival at “Daffodil Hill”

Every year, Wye Mountain has an entire field full of daffodils, and when they are in full bloom, they have a festival. I always saw people posting pictures of it, but each year it didn’t work out with our schedule for us to check it out. Luckily this year, we were able to make it work, even though Ryan was coming off of night shifts and was sleep deprived…but he knew this was our last chance so he took one for the team. The kids loved running and rolling through the fields of daffodils and I loved all the beautiful photo opportunities. Little did we know, COVID-19 was on its way, and this was our last real adventure before the recommended quarantine began, so I am especially grateful that we took the time to check it out. It is also funny looking back at these photos, because this was the last time Ryan had his facial hair. With the virus, Ryan has to stay clean shaven in order for his N-95 mask to fit properly. No complaining here…I love him no matter what and I’ve learned to embrace his scruff, but I do love seeing more of his handsome face!

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E-Learning Days

When Kinsie found out that she wouldn’t get to go to school for a while due to the virus, she bawled. My sweet girl loves school so much, and she hated the idea of not seeing her teacher and her friends for a while. I always said that homeschooling would never work for us, and I still believe that, but I am very impressed and surprised with how well e-learning from home has been going so far. Kinsie stays much more focused than I expected, and all of her teachers have done a fantastic job keeping their lessons online as normal as possible, just like they would be had they been at school. Her main teacher posts videos every day with their spelling and phonics lessons, and even does a read aloud video every day. There are often fun activities the kids can do too, like make a leprechaun trap on St. Patricks Day. All of the specials teachers post fun lessons for them as well, and I about melted at the videos the music teacher posted singing her “hello song” to each individual class with her ukulele! This school has been such a blessing for Kinsie this year, and I know we will miss it. Brax really wanted to learn too, so I used my old online teaching resources and printed worksheets for him to practice letters, numbers, colors, and more. Once he finished his worksheets for the day, he could do learning apps on the iPad until Kinsie was finished with her work.

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Kinsie’s school, and many other schools that I have heard about, have been providing free breakfasts and lunches to students while school was out. Kinsie’s school also made these meals available to any kids, not just students of the school, of any age, as long as they were in the car with you when you picked them up. The kids were pumped to pick up our free meals and enjoyed them all week.

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St. Patrick’s Day

Not that we do a whole lot on this day anyway, but it’s a fun excuse to dress up and take a picture!

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St. Patrick’s Day is always special to our family though, considering Ryan’s Match Day happened to be on this holiday 3 years ago. I have SO many emotions about this day, and now I am super nostalgic about it since we are ALMOST DONE with residency!!

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Kinsie’s First Tooth

Recently, Kinsie noticed that she had her first wiggly tooth. She was SO excited because she sees her classmates losing teeth all the time and always wondered when she would start losing her teeth. She wiggled nonstop (of course during a pandemic, my first piece of advice to her was to always make sure her hands were clean before wiggling her tooth!) Each meal she ate caused her wiggly tooth to become a little looser. Finally one night, I told her it was SO close and I could probably get it easily. Surprisingly she let me, and it indeed came out so easily…so easily in fact that it didn’t even hurt at all! She was so excited and loved getting her first visit from the tooth fairy the next morning! The tooth right next to it is now starting to wiggle, so she’s been working on that one next!

Kinsie tooth

Selling the House

We’ve been preparing for this for months. After LOTS of decluttering and storing, painting and repairs and deep cleaning…it was finally time to list our house! Getting our house “show ready” with 2 kids, 2 dogs, lots of rain, hence, lots of mud and dirt tracked in, all while being 8 months pregnant…definitely no easy task! On top of all that, this was right when COVID-19 came about, so then we had the added worry that people wouldn’t be out trying to buy houses right now. We went ahead and listed it, hoping it would at least get a lot of online attention while everyone was quarantined at home.

SellingHouse-sign

Our house officially went on the market on a Monday, and the VERY next day, we had 3 showings! We were supposed to be in Indiana the first week our house was listed, but we decided it wasn’t best to travel during the pandemic, especially being around our families with Ryan working in health care, so instead we stayed home. Before we found out about the 3 upcoming showings, Ryan had already planned on picking up a couple of extra shifts to make some extra “moonlighting” money. So I was on my own with getting the kids and dogs out of the house!

The first showing was around lunch time, so we loaded up the car and grabbed fast food and just hung out in the car. It was rainy out anyway, and the kids stayed entertained watching a movie and doing activity books.

SellingHouse-firstshowing

The second 2 showings were in the evening back to back, and it was nicer outside, so we grabbed some dinner and had a picnic at the park. Apparently since this was the first sight of nice weather in about a week, EVERYONE else in the town decided to go to the park as well, making it very hard to implement social distancing. We sat at our own little picnic table by the lake, then tried to find areas in the park for the kids to play without other people. The kids helped me walk the dogs, and we used hand sanitizer after touching literally anything. Both the kids and dogs were very good, but even so, afterwards I was EXHAUSTED!

SellingHouse-showings

After just 1 day of being on the market, and 3 showings, we have officially accepted an offer and are under contract! It was truly a God thing that this all happened so quickly even during a pandemic. It is such a relief that I don’t have to continue having the physical stress of keeping the house ready, but even more not having the emotional stress of wondering if our house would sell before we needed to move. The best part is that we negotiated with the buyers to let us stay in the house until the end of May, which will be super helpful since the baby comes sometime in May. The kids and I will move out then, and Ryan will find a co-resident to stay with until he finishes out his contract at the end of June.

Social Distancing Spring Break

Like I mentioned before, we were very sad to make the decision not to travel to Indiana for spring break, but we definitely felt that it was the right thing to do. We were planning on house hunting, and even though that was our only chance to go, we’ve continued to look online, and we are very blessed that we at least have 2 realtors in the family that I fully trust to look at the houses we like and help us make a decision. Anyway, the first few days of spring break were rainy, so we had to entertain ourselves inside, at home. This included getting our the Easter eggs and having indoor egg hunts, lots of dancing and Go Noodle videos (short dance along videos for kids to follow), drawing and coloring, puppet shows, live stream videos of animals at the zoo, and even a few naps!

PandemicActivities-Inside

Luckily, we didn’t have gloomy weather for too long while the kids were home for spring break. As soon as the rain stopped, we busted outside as often as we could while still maintaining social distancing. On one of the days, we took a family walk (dogs and all) around the park. Ryan doesn’t get to do this with us very often, so it was nice to share this time with him.

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The next few days we had WONDERFUL weather. We spent about 4 days in a row outside all day.

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The kids loved having nature scavenger hunts and combining the nature items they found to create new “inventions.”

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One day, we had straight up summer weather. It was 87 degrees! We took advantage of the weather and let the kids have their first pool and sprinkler day. They loved it! They even washed my car and found a lizard friend. This day made me very grateful that I won’t be pregnant through the real Arkansas summer, because the heat from this day was rough on my very pregnant body!

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Another day, the kids were running out of ideas to do in our own yard, and it wasn’t quite warm enough to do the water activities again. I came up with the idea to make a “board game” on our driveway and they loved it. Both kids helped me plan out our game, and all the obstacles and accelerations that would come with it. When we were done, Ryan took an aerial picture from the top of his Jeep, then we played the game… a lot!

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Some of the specific parts of the game included:

  • Frog jump ahead 3 spaces
  • Bubble Spill – lose 1 turn
  • Swimming with fish shortcut (Kinsie’s idea was to wear goggles while taking this shortcut!)
  • Stuck in the ball pit, lose 1 turn (they would literally sit in a bin filled with balls)
  • Scooter ride acceleration
  • Frisbee toss ahead 3 spaces
  • “God Bless America,” march ahead 3 spaces
  • Duck crossing, go back 2 spaces to allow them time to cross
  • Hit by a water balloon, lose a turn to dry off

I asked Kinsie what she wanted the “end goal” of the game to be, and she said that the goal is to get to “Princess and Superhero World!” It was actually a lot of fun creating the game with them, and they played it nonstop until it eventually rained and washed the game away.

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Pregnancy Updates

At 32 weeks, we entered our 8th month of pregnancy. At the most, I have about 8 weeks left, but with my history, and based on how I’ve been feeling, I probably have less time than that. This month has been tough emotionally for obvious reasons, but it has also gotten much more physically difficult for me. Moving around in any way takes about 10 times more effort than usual, and my hips are really starting to hurt…I can physically feel my body getting itself ready for labor.

Here are some updates and/or changes at 8 months:

  • This boy has not calmed down…not even a little bit! It is safe to say that he is by far my most active child in utero. He also seems to be very strong, because his kicks send shockwaves of pain through my ribs, my hips and my bladder!
  • He is currently anywhere around 4 pounds and 17 inches long.
  • My ankles and feet are starting to swell. Lately I’ve TRIED to sit down as often as possible, but…you know…kids. Ryan is a MAJOR help whenever he is home. Kinsie usually tries to help, but is often is oblivious, and Brax is just Brax…he doesn’t really understand.
  • Like I said before, my hips are giving out on me. In the evenings in particular they really hurt and I can feel my ligaments stretching, making it painful to walk.
  • My carpal tunnel syndrome is slowly getting worse. It’s not unbearable yet, but I have to sleep every night with wrist braces, and now I wear a brace on my right hand throughout most of the day. The less I use my hands, the better it feels…but its kind of impossible not to use my hands!
  • I developed two new random cravings this month – apple juice and grapes. But not necessarily together.
  • We THINK we have his name picked out…but you’ll have to wait until he’s born to find out!
  • Bright side – at least this quarantine is happening when I’m too physically exhausted to run around anyway!

This photo was taken at 32 weeks – baby was the size of a cantaloupe

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The kids LOVE feeling their brother move. When they snuggle with me on the couch, their hand usually finds my belly and just rests there so they can feel his crazy movements.

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My sweet Kinsie has the tendency to drop something on the ground whenever she is done with it, whether it is a toy, her jacket, her shoes, etc. Ryan and I have been trying to explain that she needs to pick things up and put them in the right spot, especially now to help me out. This message was not quite getting through, so we had to take it a step further. We found a 2 pound medicine ball and wrapped it around her body with seran wrap, then I had her wear it around for a few minutes and try to pick up various things around the kitchen. She was not a fan (she wouldn’t even let me get a picture so I had to sneak one), but she started to understand! Now whenever she starts becoming “unhelpful” again, I remind her of the lesson and she starts to help more. My sister called this lesson “Empathy for the family way!”

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I’ve been trying to soak up my time as just a mom of 2, and trust me, I’ve had LOTS of time with my 2 the last month! They often drive me crazy but goodness I love them and all their crazy and unique idiosyncrasies. I can’t wait to meet this new little one and get to know his unique crazy self too!

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We still had lots of good moments this month, but it definitely was not the month that anyone expected. I am praying constantly that COVID-19 will start to slow down soon so we can all feel safe leaving our homes again and continuing our lives, but I am trying to prepare my mind for the possibility that it could still last a while.

My 2 biggest fears right now are 1) that Ryan gets infected and has to be put on quarantine when the baby comes, and 2) that the virus continues so heavily that the kids won’t get to finish their school year at their schools here in Arkansas. This is supposed to be such an exciting time for us, and the idea of the kids not getting to say goodbye the proper way to their teachers and friends just breaks my heart. With my first fear, I know that its a possibility, but I also know that Ryan is doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen. He is always wearing his PPE at work, and cleaning and sanitizing himself and all of his materials before he even comes into the house and hugs any of us. This month has proved to me even more that my husband is a freaking rockstar. He is handling everything so well both physically and mentally, AND helping me and the kids through it too. I am so grateful for everything he does for us and the fact that I get to do life with him every day. With the second fear, I know this is also a good possibility, and Kinsie knows it too. I told her that if this happens, we will do whatever we can to make sure she gets to say goodbye to the people she has grown close to here in Arkansas, whether its through FaceTime, or even if we need to come back a few months after we move when this has all been cleared. Only time will tell how the rest of this all plays out.

I’ve come a long way mentally and emotionally in just one month, but I know I have only been given the strength to do that through God. Don’t get me wrong, I still have weak moments…every single day. But I’ve been doing a LOT of praying, talking with family and just focusing on all the good things happening, and that is what is getting me through it. Praying for everyone else out there and hoping you all STAY HOME and STAY HEALTHY!!

Here is our March 2020 1 Second Everyday video…

 

Hello, Third Trimester!

We are officially one month closer to moving AND to meeting our sweet baby boy! For some reason, February seemed to drag on a little more than I expected, but we are excited for March to be here and for spring to come. We had a lot going on this month, so enjoy our recap!

Preparing the House

We had a lot of work that needed done to the house to prepare it to sell. We are SO lucky to have the resources that we do, including my dad and sister, who sell houses for a living and know exactly what to do to prepare the house, AND Ryan’s parents, who manage rentals for a living and know exactly HOW to prepare the house. Ryan’s parents visited at the beginning of the month to help us do just that. We got a LOT accomplished in just a few days, including lots of power washing, painting, and repairing. Ryan did all the power washing outside and decided to have some fun with it, and to entertain the kids…see picture below!

Again, we are SO grateful for the family that we have and how willing they all are to help us with anything at the drop of a hat…hence the reason why we are moving closer to them!

PreppingHouse

Daddy Daughter Dance

Last year, Ryan and Kinsie went to the Daddy Daughter Dance in our town and had a great time, so they did it again this year! Kinsie loved getting dressed up and having a special night with her Dad. With his schedule, any quality time with him is so special to all of us, and she enjoyed every moment! And I know Ryan enjoyed time with his little girl as well!

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Family Campfire Night

The kids are all about campfires and s’mores, so we try to fit them in whenever we can. Ryan’s schedule has been tough lately with lots of evening shifts, so one of the only nights we had available was a very cold night! But we bundled up and made the most of it. It was so cold, in fact, that Brax actually agreed to wear a hat and gloves! If you know him, you know this is a big deal and he really must have been cold! We had a great night roasting marshmallows, eating s’mores, snuggling by the fire and telling knock knock jokes.

FamilyCampfire

Artwork, writing and crafts

With lots of indoor time this month, the kids have been really into drawing and crafts.

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Kinsie recently learned about American symbols at school, and loves teaching us all everything she learned. I still can’t get enough of her sweet writings she brings home from school!

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Below are some of Kinsie’s most recent drawings. I love her details!!

It’s pretty easy to tell what she draws these days, but just in case you can’t tell…

Top left- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Mickey and friends; top right – The Avengers; bottom – Frozen and Frozen 2 characters

Kinsie-drawings

Brax has learned all of his letters now, so his newest obsession is writing his name and lots of random words. He also has gotten much better at drawing people and animals. I’m  obsessed with his little imagination!

Top left- a gorilla going to the eye doctor; top right – two sharks chasing fish; bottom left – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Mickey and Friends; bottom right – dinosaurs holding hands

Brax-drawings

A few more…Kinsie drew all the Disney princesses along with their friends, sidekicks, significant others and accessories! Brax drew dinosaurs in the jungle

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And finally, here is a picture of drawings that the kids made me when I was having an extra rough and exhausting day. They are the best!

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Kinsie recently discovered a short series on Disney+ called Family Sundays, where they have families doing Disney themed crafts together. One weekend, she saw an episode about making Frozen 2 themed soap. We needed a Saturday family activity to get out of the house anyway, so we took a trip to Hobby Lobby and bought supplies to make soap. She loved watching the video and following the step-by-step instructions. While we were at it, we made unicorn soap too!

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Holly’s Baby Shower

One of the intern residents’ wife is someone I’ve become very close with this year, and shortly after they moved here from Arizona last summer, she became pregnant with twins! She already has 3 kids, so now she’s adding 2 more to her crew. The ladies from our bible study and I threw a small baby sprinkle for her so she can get some extra stuff they may need two of now. I loved getting to celebrate this sweet friend of mine and the baby boy and girl that will make their appearance soon. Meanwhile, Ryan took our kids over to her husband’s house and they ordered pizza and let all the kids play. They had a fun Daddy Kid play date!

Holly Baby Shower

Valentine’s Day Festivities

Valentines for class

The weekend before Valentine’s Day, Ryan worked the ENTIRE weekend…two 12 hour shifts in a row, which was rough on my very pregnant body and mind. However, we made the most of it and did all of our Valentines fun and prep to keep busy, starting with the kids’ valentines for their classes. Brax picked out shark valentines, and Kinsie, my little overachiever, always like to buy a kit and make her valentines. This time, she picked heart emojis, so she could design each heart with different features. This is the first year that Brax could address his own valentines, so he was excited to get to do his own!

Valentines-forclass

Valentines Cookies

This is a yearly tradition now, and the kids love doing it. They worked so hard and we ended up with lots of beautiful, delicious valentine cookies!

Valentines-cookies

Valentines Day Fun

The kids had a great time at each of their class valentines parties. Brax made lots of cute crafts, and Kinsie worked hard on her “love bug” valentine bag they made in class.

Valentines-crafts

Another tradition I started last year, was every day from February 1 – 14, the kids receive a heart with a reason why we love them. They loved waking up each morning to see what their heart said!

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Ryan worked another evening shift the night of Valentines day, so, like last year, I made the kids heart-shaped pancakes for dinner. I even made them extra special this year and added Nutella and pink and red sprinkles!

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Overall, we had a good Valentines Day. However, my sweet Brax started not feeling great that evening, which started his week of sickness.

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Sickness Strikes

Our little guy doesn’t get sick very often, but when he does, it breaks our hearts because he’s not his perky, silly little self. On the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, he went downhill fast. He didn’t want to play, but just wanted to snuggle, and I noticed he was getting a fever. Everything escalated pretty quickly, and we could tell he felt terrible. He’s not a big fan of medicine, so I had to trick him and sneak some into his gatorade. He felt better for a few hours (while the medicine did its job), then he went downhill again once the medicine was out of his system. Ryan had to work that evening, and the kids and I had some valentine fun, but you could tell Brax just didn’t feel good. He ended up vomiting once that night (I already struggle with vomit…add pregnancy on top of it and it was almost unbearable to clean up). Once I got him cleaned up, he fell asleep on the couch. I let him sleep out there on the couch with me until I was going to bed…mainly to make sure he didn’t vomit again. The next few days were still pretty rough, but at least Ryan was home to help. Brax was mainly really tired and sluggish with a high fever. The only way to manage it was to keep him medicated (which, again, I always had to trick him into taking it!) He never sleeps well when he’s sick (who does, really), so we all didn’t sleep great. A few days in, he started complaining about his ears. Luckily, we had a doctor in the house and he was able to check his ears, diagnose him with a double ear infection, and prescribe him with some antibiotics. FINALLY Brax started to feel better!

(In the bottom photo below, it was a beautiful day so we tried to take the kids on a wagon ride…Brax tried to have fun, but he just wasn’t feeling it!)

Braxsick

A little more outside time

This month, we were able to get a little more outside time than last month. Ryan worked lots of evenings and 12 hour weekend shifts, so we definitely needed activities to keep these kids busy that didn’t require a ton of extra energy on my part.

We did lots of chalk and tracing of each other and stuffed animals…

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Lots of bike and scooter races and tree “climbing…”

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Bubbles, bow and arrow practice and hula-hooping…

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And a few trips to the park complete with playground fun and climbing/rolling down the hills.

outside-hill

Papa and Yaya visit

My parents were able to make a long weekend trip to come visit us. The breaks between family visits in the winter always seem especially long. This month has had its rough moments for me with feeling mentally overwhelmed and physically exhausted, so getting to see my parents was a breath of fresh air. They helped us with a few last minute things on the house that I wasn’t able to physically be much help on, and they also helped us with the logistics of what’s next on our house-selling adventure. But most importantly, they just got some quality time with us…which is what we all needed most!

PapaYaya

Pregnancy Updates – THIRD Trimester

The third trimester creeped up on me fast. It seems like all of the sudden, I am to the point where I can barely reach my feet to put on socks or shoes, and I can’t get comfortable no matter how hard I try. The kids often forget that I’m getting bigger and less mobile, so we have to constantly remind them to help me out in whatever ways they can. When the kids are at school, I usually use that time to run my errands and get as much as I can done. I still do that to an extent, but overall I’ve been trying to use at least part of that time to just relax, which is easier said than done for me, especially at such a busy time in our lives.

This photo was taken at 28 weeks – baby was the size of a head of lettuce

Pregnancy-28 weeks-1

Symptoms this month include:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Starting to get very uncomfortable. It’s hard to be comfortable in pretty much any position except laying on my side.
  • Shortness of breath – mainly because the baby is often up in my ribs!
  • Mind constantly racing and sometime experiencing anxiety – like I’ve said before, my mind is extra “busy” when I’m pregnant. With a busy mind, but a body that’s physically unable to do much, I have a problem. I’ve been having to rely a lot on devotionals and reading to help with this problem.
  • LOTS of baby movement – again, I love it, and I am going to miss it when I’m not pregnant anymore…but goodness, this kid is already strong! I often wonder if he moves a lot in his sleep, or if he just doesn’t sleep because he is constantly moving. The kids LOVE feeling him move all the time!

This month I had to do my glucose tolerance test. This is where you drink an extremely sugary drink in 10 minutes, and then get your blood drawn an hour later to check for gestational diabetes. You are supposed to fast for 2 hours prior to drinking the drink, which created a problem for me. My test was in the morning, so I had to wake up early and not eat anything, and just drink this sugar-filled drink. Ryan was originally supposed to work this day, but I asked him to switch his shift because I had experienced dizziness during this test in my previous pregnancies. It was a Friday so Brax didn’t have school, so he would have had to come to the doctor with me…another reason I wanted Ryan to drive me… I did not want Brax in the car with me if I was dizzy. Well, its a good thing Ryan was able to switch, because in the car, halfway into my “hour wait” between the drink and my blood test, I got extremely dizzy and threw up the entire drink in the car! I was mostly upset because I knew there was a good chance they wouldn’t be able to draw my blood now, and I would have to completely redo the test. Unfortunately, I was right. I was super bummed and nervous that I wouldn’t handle it well the next time too. I picked a different flavor for the next time, and made an afternoon appointment so I wouldn’t have to fast all day. The day of my retest, I ate a big breakfast before my 2 hour fast. Luckily, the test went much better this time around. I kept the drink down and passed my glucose tolerance test!

Pregnancy-Glucose test

We are ready for March! March has always been one of my favorite months because we start to see some evidence of upcoming spring. We are excited to be one month closer to lots of exciting life changing events for our family!

Here is our 1 Second Every Day video for the month of February. Enjoy!

Kicking off 2020 at 6 Months Pregnant

The first month of this year has been interesting. It’s been long, like most Januarys, but we’ve also been busy…in a different way. Being 6 months pregnant makes busy days a bit more exhausting. I started AND ended the month being sick…nothing too bad, just a cold…but man, these colds have kicked my pregnant behind! Having a cold while pregnant is a lot worse than I remembered…I’m already tired and out of breath all the time, and I didn’t have many options for any medications to give me any relief. I’ve mainly relied on nasal spray and rest. With a busy working husband and two kids who need dropped off, picked up, and ran around to their various activities…rest is few and far between. Luckily I’ve had help here and there with a few mom/mother-in-law visits!

Here is a recap of our month…

Prepping for the big move

We’re planning on putting our house on the market in March, so the first step is LOTS of decluttering. It’s been tiring, but mentally satisfying for me. When I’m pregnant, my nesting drastically kicks in, and my mind can’t rest. It’s almost like taking Adderall – I have a hard time not being productive. Even though I don’t have a nursery to prepare for unil we move, luckily I’ve had a whole house to clean…fulfilling my nesting needs. We rented a storage unit to keep our stuff that we’ve cleared out of the house, which the kids have been weirdly obsessed with. They don’t like storing any of their stuff, but they LOVE taking runs to the unit and helping load it up!

Storage

Trampoline Park Day

Before the kids started school after Christmas break, they needed to get some energy out, so I took them to one of their favorite places, the trampoline park. Even though I wasn’t physically able to jump with them this time, luckily they entertain each other pretty well and had a great time!

TrampolinePark

100 Magical Days

Kinsie was super excited for her 100th day of school. At the school in which I used to teach, celebrating this day was more of a lower elementary thing, so as a 5th grade teacher, I never really got to partake in the fun. Being the mom of a Kindergartener though has given me that chance! Kinsie and I went to Hobby Lobby together to pick out her supplies and made her shirt together. Her shirt had a rainbow made out of 100 gems, a unicorn, and the words “100 Magical Days!” She was so excited to show it off and loved telling me about all the different 100 Day activities they did at school that day.

100thDay

Rare Outside Time

If Arkansas gets any cold weather, January is typically when it happens. Overall, it’s usually about 30 degrees in the mornings and evenings, and then gets up to the 40s, MAYBE 50s during the day. Not too bad compared to an Indiana January, but still. We’ve had TONS of rain this month, which is what has kept us from being outside more. We did, however, get a few rare opportunities to spend some time outside, which always fills the kids’ buckets.

Outside

Community Helpers Unit

Kinsie had her first big unit at school, community helpers. They’ve been learning about different community helpers and what they do, and they’ve even had several guest speakers (her daddy being one of them!) All the Kindergarteners had to pick a community helper and create a poster and present it to the class. Kinsie picked doctors because she is so proud that her dad is one. She worked so hard on her poster, and it turned out great! I helped her physically put it together, but she did all the research (Ryan was her resource), and all the writing. She was a little nervous to present to the class, but she ended up going first and did an awesome job! She was so excited to have Ryan come speak to the Kindergarten classes about being a doctor too!

ComHelpers

Baby Updates – 6 Months

I’m kind of freaking out at how fast this pregnancy seems to be going this time. Between life with two other kids and keeping up with all of their activities, plus starting the process of moving, each week is flying by!

Updates and Symptoms-

  • Baby is a little more than 1 pound
  • His hands are always by his face
  • He is VERY active. I absolutely love feeling him move, but he is getting bigger and stronger, which makes some of his movements somewhat painful!
  • Continued gigantic hiccups
  • Intense need to “nest”
  • Mild carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms – I’m hoping this one is more from the work I’ve been doing around the house rather than my pregnancy. If you recall, my carpal tunnel pain was SO intense near the end of my pregnancy with Brax, which continued for several weeks after he was born. It was so terrible being in horrible pain even holding my newborn baby. I eventually had to get cortisone injections is both of my wrists. I am trying to be very proactive this time to avoid it getting that bad again.

Early in the month, we had our anatomy scan. Even though we already knew it was a boy, I loved every moment of the ultrasound. The tech was extremely thorough and even gave us a free DVD with the entire ultrasound on it. We got lots of great views and pictures of our crazy little guy, including a quick 3D view of his sweet little face! He is very healthy and right on track with his size!

Baby ultrasound-1

Baby ultrasound-2

 

This picture was taken at 22 weeks – baby was the size of a red bell pepper

22 weeks

 

This picture was taken at 24 weeks – baby is the size of a pomegranate (notice the size difference in just 2 weeks from the previous picture!)

24 weeks-1

I found some of my old pregnancy pictures from my last 2 pregnancies, and compared the pictures all at 24 weeks. It is so interesting how different each pregnancy has been! As you can probably see, I was the biggest at this point with Brax. With this baby, I’d say I’m in between how big I was with Kinsie and Brax.

24weeks-3babies

The kids were excited to get in on the action with pictures this time! They are SO excited to meet their baby brother!

24 weeks-5

Real life with these two…

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That’s a wrap for our January. Life is going to continue getting crazier as we get closer to the arrival of our little guy, and our big move back to our home state. It’s a lot all at once, but I keep reminding myself that it’s all good stuff. God is blessing us abundantly and we couldn’t be more grateful for his goodness!

Enjoy our first 1 Second Every video for the year 2020!

December Days

I apologize that it’s almost halfway through January before I even got around to posting my December updates, but things have been crazy since we got home from Christmas! We had a super busy and fun December like I expected! Between Christmas activities and being pregnant, I’ve been one exhausted mama. We had a great month though, and we are looking forward to all the exciting things happening for our family very soon!

We had lots of fun little activities or events all through December, such as…

Kinsie’s first Kindergarten Field Trip

She was mostly excited about riding a school bus for the first time. Since she attends a charter school, they do not use buses as transportation, but instead parents drop off and pick up. Kinsie loved her first bus experience, and the field trip itself was fun too! I came along as a parent chaperone. First we went to a theater to watch a really neat Christmas lights show. After the show, we ate lunch and the kids all played at a nearby park.

Field trip

First BB Gun

Ryan has been anxiously awaiting this day for a long time now. He bought the kids their first BB gun! He found a great deal and couldn’t pass it up, and the kids were super excited to try it out. They went outside to practice right away. They did great for their first time! You’ll see later that the BB gun played a key role in our gender reveal!

BBgun

Santa at Bass Pro

This has become one of our new favorite traditions. We already love Bass Pro, but it’s even better at Christmas time. We loved Santa’s Workshop where the kids could play and make crafts. The kids did great meeting Santa again!

BassPro

Brax meeting Santa again!

Lucky little guy got to see Santa for another time at his school. He was really excited and loved telling us about it when he got home.

Santa at School

Brax’s Christmas Program

Ryan and I both got to see Brax perform in his Christmas program at his school. He was shy and a little nervous, but he did great! He’s come a long way since the Baby Shark incident at Kinsie’s graduation last year!

ChristmasProgram

EM Christmas Party

Another one of our favorite events from the past few years. Every year, we go to the Christmas Party for the UAMS Emergency Medicine program. There’s always a great dinner, desserts, and the department coordinator’s wife buys amazing gifts for all the kids in the program. The kids were super excited about their gifts! We are so sad we won’t have this tradition once Ryan’s done with residency. We LOVE our UAMS residency family!

ResidencyParty

Christmas Cookies

The kids and I enjoyed making Christmas cookies together one weekend day. It keeps them busy for a while, sparks their creativity, and then of course there are cookies to eat when we’re done! It’s become one of my favorite things to do with them for holidays.

Cookies

Dinner at All Aboard

Ryan was on an elective this month, and he chose to do a rural medicine rotation, where he had to do 10 shifts at a rural hospital up in northwest Arkansas. He did a few shifts before Christmas, then finished the rest when we got home. Since he would be gone for almost a week, and with me being halfway through my pregnancy, his mom flew down for the week to help me with the kids. We loved having Grandma visit, and we tried to do fun things like have dinner at their favorite restaurant, All Aboard!

AllAboard

Indiana Travels

Once Ryan was home and Kinsie was officially on winter break, we hit the road! We had Bev with us to help drive, and loaded up our gifts and dogs to spend Christmas with family.

Traveling

 

We got to Indiana just in time to celebrate my mom’s birthday. She was in her happy place to get to celebrate with all her grand babies! We also took this opportunity to do our gender reveal with our families! But I’ll get to that soon…

Yaya Birthday

It had snowed several days before we arrived, and the kids were SO excited that there was still snow on the ground. Every time we went outside, they ran around in it with no regard. They were super bummed when it eventually melted. I kept reminding them that we’re moving back and they will get PLENTY of snow soon!

Snow

Something we’ve done every year for the past few years is get together with Ryan’s Aunt Rita’s family and decorate cookies and let the kids play. They are all around the same age, so they always have a blast together!

Cousinfun

Christmas Eve

Every year we attend the Christmas Eve church service with my family. The kids get to join their cousins in their classes, and we always love visiting our old church and listening to our old pastor’s sermons. After church, we headed to Aunt Renata’s for Christmas with the Matthews side. The kids loved sorting gifts for everyone and playing with their cousin, Griffin.

Eve-churchEve-cousins

 

Christmas Day

On Christmas day, the kids were SO excited to wake up and see what Santa brought them. All Kinsie asked for this year was a Fiona calendar (her favorite hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo). Brax asked for something different every time we asked, so it was pretty much a free-for-all for him. They both seemed very excited about their gifts and loved playing with everything right away.

ChristmasDay-Santa

After opening gifts for just our immediate family, we ate a big breakfast that my dad made. After a while, my sister’s family came and we all did our presents together. While the kids helped pass out everyone’s gift, I went upstairs and got a time-lapse of the chaos!

 

ChristmasDay-presents

The kids all had a great day together, and it was funny because they all showed up wearing very similar pajamas! Of course we had to get a picture!

ChristmasDay-cousins

After playing inside for a while with all their new stuff, we realized how beautiful it was outside, so we all went outside for a while and let the kids play. Later on, we visited some of Ryan’s mom’s side of the family. When we got back, Brax was SO tired, but he refused to go to bed. Instead, he ended up passing out right on the couch in the middle of the chaos!

ChristmasDay-play

We had a great visit with family and friends. It’s always tough traveling 10 hours with 2 kids and 2 dogs and a car FULL of Christmas gifts, but it is completely worth it. On the way home, we even stopped in Paducah, KY to visit some of our old residency friends. It’s been a good ride, but we are excited and relieved that this was our last “traveling” Christmas, since we’ll be back in Indiana next year.

New Year’s Eve

For New Year’s Eve, we were back home and trying to catch up on sleep and get settled again. Since we didn’t have a great reason to, we didn’t have the kids stay up until midnight, so we did an early countdown/celebration with them like we have the last couple of years. We made our own pizzas, had a dance party, drank fizzy drinks and ate cookies, and enjoyed our family night together.

NYE

Baby Updates: Month 4 (Weeks 16-20)

I can’t believe I’m already halfway done with this pregnancy. It has definitely flown by, and this little one will be here before we know it!

This month’s pregnancy symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Really strong waves of fatigue again…but that could be partially due to the holidays and all the events and activities that came with it. We were very busy so I was very tired!
  • Appetite has decreased…which is probably a good thing because it was a bit out of control during the first trimester.
  • Hiccups…like huge, obnoxious hiccups.
  • Back pain…now that my belly is getting bigger, my back is getting out of whack, especially when trying to sleep. Fun times!
  • Baby kicks…ALL the time. And I could not love it more! I’ve already mentally accepted the fact that I will probably never have a chill child…this one will most likely be a wild child like the other two!

18 weeks

This photo was taken at 18 weeks – baby is the size of a grapefruit

Boy or Girl?

We knew we would be really close to that time where we could find out the gender of the baby by the time we came home for Christmas, so we asked our doctor if we could find out before we go. I wasn’t quite due for my full anatomy scan yet, but because my doctor is amazing, she gave me a quick freebie ultrasound at my next appointment so we could find out. My appointment was early in the morning, so we let Kinsie be a little late to school and brought both her and Brax along with us so we could all find out together. At first, the umbilical cord was right in the way…so the doctor kept wiggling the ultrasound wand around to see if she could get a good angle. Finally the baby moved a little, and voila….there it was! Baby Matthews #3 is a BOY!!

ultrasound

We had to keep the secret for about a week before we headed home to Indiana to tell everyone. I didn’t let the kids talk on the phone to anyone during that time!

When we got to Indiana, we invited all our immediate family over for my mom’s birthday, and our gender reveal. We had a paint-filled balloon pinned to a canvas, and Kinsie would shoot her BB gun to pop the balloon and reveal the color. However, things didn’t exact go as planned! As you’ll see in the video, Kinsie hit the balloon TWICE, and the BB just bounced right off! Ryan eventually had to shoot it point blank for it to finally pop!

 

reveal

We all are so excited to have another little boy join the family in May!

Finally to end out our December and our year, here is our 1 Second Everyday video for December 2019. Happy New Year!

 

Fall Fun in November

Another month goes by in a flash! As usual, our November seemed pretty busy, and here we are already in December. Here is a recap of our month!

Fall Festival

Kinsie’s school had a fall festival early in the month. The small rural school that I used to teach at had a fall festival every year too, so that is what I was expecting…an indoor festival with some games, prizes, auction baskets, and food. Nope…not here. This was a HUGE event. So huge that it was all outdoors, even though it was 30 degrees outside that night. There were carnival games and rides, a petting zoo, pony rides, inflatables, rock climbing, a concert, food trucks, you name it. The kids mainly enjoyed the petting zoo and the pony ride. Kinsie also did some rock climbing and carnival games, while Brax sat in the warm car with Daddy (he’s no Elsa…the cold definitely bothered him). It was a cold, but fun night!

FallFestival

Fall Outdoors Adventures

This month, it was either extremely cold (for Arkansas anyway), or a beautiful 60 degree fall day. On those days, we were outside. Some of our outdoor adventures this month included a campfire with s’mores, a family bike ride, and of course some time at the park!

Outside-campfire

Brax NEVER let us put him in the bike seat until now. And now he loves it!

Outside-bikes

Park adventures are our favorite!

Outside-park1Outside-park2

Fall is my favorite!

Outside-park3

Birthday Weekend in Branson

Last year, my 30th birthday was kind of a dud. Ryan had to work, and once he got home we had to leave right away for Fayetteville to meet my family, so we never really got to celebrate. Because of that, Ryan made sure he had the entire weekend off for my birthday this year. We decided to make a short trip to Branson for my birthday. We drove up on Friday night and stayed in a hotel, then got up the next morning to go to the Santa’s PJ’s and Pancakes Cruise on the Branson Belle. After the show, we shopped at my favorite outlet mall. Then we headed back and had dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant. It was a great birthday!

Keeping us entertained in the hotel room

IMG_2820

Adventures on the Branson Belle

Branson-2Branson-1

Thanksgiving at School

I always love when the kids’ schools do a Thanksgiving lunch. Especially the preschool, because they usually include a performance of some kind. It was extra special this year because the kids were in different schools, and I enjoyed having quality time with both of them.

First up was Brax’s Thanksgiving lunch. His class sang a turkey song (which he actually participated in instead of clamming up from stage fright like last time!) After the performances from each age, we had a potluck Thanksgiving lunch.

ThanksgivingSchool-Brax

The next day was Kinsie’s Thanksgiving lunch. Ryan was able to come to this one as well. The cafeteria served Thanksgiving food, so we all got lunch trays. It was Kinsie’s first time buying a tray from the cafeteria, so she was a little nervous! We enjoyed lunch with our girl and loved the quality time with her!

ThanksgivingSchool-Kinsie

Thanksgiving Week with Family

Since we were having to make so many trips to Indiana this fall, my family decided to save us a trip and come visit us for Thanksgiving. My parents came earlier in the week and brought my youngest niece, Kolly, since she didn’t have school that week. The rest of my sister’s family came late Wednesday night after their older two kids got out of school. As always, the kids had SO much fun together. We went on a few small adventures, like the rock park, a wagon ride to the playground, and to see Frozen 2. However, these kids were perfectly content playing at our house. They even put on a play for us called “The Princess and the Dragon.”

ThanksgivingWeek-cousinfun

The kids enjoyed doing some Thanksgiving crafts while we worked on Thanksgiving dinner. They played Thanksgiving Bingo, and made placemats and turkey masks!

ThanksgivingWeek-crafts

They loved their cousin table for Thanksgiving dinner!

ThanksgivingWeek-table

We had a great week together. And it’s even better that this was our last Thanksgiving in Arkansas, so we will be able to travel around to all our different family Thanksgiving meals next year like we used to. We are so grateful for family who were willing to travel over 500 miles to spend this holiday with us!

ThanksgivingWeek-Cousins

That’s a wrap for November. Onto one of the busiest but best months…December! We will be doing lots of singing Christmas songs, wrapping presents, learning about Jesus, Christmas programs and crafts, and finally spending the week of Christmas in Indiana with our families. Stay tuned for December updates…including a gender reveal next month!!

Here is our 1 Second Everyday for November. Enjoy!