The Big 3

Levi had an awesome 3rd birthday party, complete with his “Digger” cake, friends, and games. As you can see, Zach enjoyed the party as well.

His actual birthday was a few days later, and was celebrated with a trip to the sporting goods store to pick up his new bike, homemade pizza, and family movie night.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEVI! WE LOVE YOU!

Nana Goes to Venice

After getting back home and settling in for a whopping month or so…it was time to hit the road again. We were attending a leadership conference in Europe, and then tacked on a few days to spend in Venice with Nana (Jonathan’s Mom). While at the conference, the boys went to bed super late and had to be woken up each morning, despite the broad daylight and loud parents getting ready. We were all VERY tired this week.

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Zach and I spent time hanging out at the pool while Daddy and Levi had fun swimming! As you can tell, I think Zach would have preferred to swim too!

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Bus ride back to the airport with a beautiful field of sunflowers.

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We met Nana at the airport and took a water taxi into the city.

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Loved meeting good friends in Venice!Venice Vacation - 7 of 27

Unfortunately, our first night is where it took a nasty turn. It was hot during the day but nice and cool in the evenings so naturally we had left the windows in the main room cracked. After noticing a couple of mosquitos coming in, we shut the windows. We found out later that night when we were under complete and utter ATTACK that more than just a few had gotten in and they were there for blood. No pun intended. They literally sucked the life out of all of us. Levi fared the absolute worst, and I felt like the most horrible parent in the world. Look at the poor thing!! He had over 50 bites and was so swollen. Poor poor baby, I hurt just looking at this picture.Venice Vacation - 8 of 27

It didn’t however, stop him from wanting to be out and about exploring.Venice Vacation - 9 of 27Venice Vacation - 10 of 27Venice Vacation - 11 of 27Venice Vacation - 12 of 27

Dream come true as we all took a Gondola ride at sunset down the grand canal.Venice Vacation - 13 of 27

Fortunately, Zach was wearing long sleeves, pants, and socks, and since he sleeps on his tummy, one side of his face was safely squished into the mattress. But on this one side of his face/head he had 45 bites. He must have a different skin type because his didn’t swell or appear to really bother him much at all but they do look awful, don’t they??Venice Vacation - 14 of 27

We took a water bus out to the island of Murano and got to see glass blowing demonstrations, as well as marvel at all the beautiful glass creations. We also had a quick picnic lunch, and then headed back to the apartment to rest.Venice Vacation - 15 of 27

Nana let us have a date night!!! We walked around child-free, and ended up eating outside a nice restaurant in their beautiful garden area.Venice Vacation - 16 of 27

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Nana loved seeing Levi dipping his bread in olive oil!Venice Vacation - 18 of 27

All of us looking quite chipper on the 3am ferry. Needless to say, this was NOT a restful trip at all. We saw some beautiful things and had a great time together, but it was a very hard trip! Luckily, the hard things fade away in memories and we have these great pictures to remember the wonderful things by!Venice Vacation - 19 of 27

Zach being happy and adorable on the plane ride home.Venice Vacation - 20 of 27

Levi was so happy to be reunited with “The Cookie Car!” which is usually parked at the bakery around the corner.Venice Vacation - 21 of 27

Enjoying OJ at breakfast at a cafe one morning. The boy loves him some fresh squeezed OJ, and will down your whole glass in 6.2 seconds if you’re not careful. And then you’ll have to order another one. Not that that happened or anything.Venice Vacation - 24 of 27

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This day at lunch, Levi wanted more ketchup for his fries. We told him to go ask the waiter in Arabic, and to our complete shock, he actually did it! We were so proud and impressed by his courage! But seriously, the cuteness, who wouldn’t oblige him with some extra ketchup???Venice Vacation - 27 of 27

We are so thankful that Nana flew across the pond by herself to visit us! We had a great and memorable time together. Come back soon!

Zach Comes Home

We were quite thrilled to have Grammie come back Home with us. She stayed for a couple more weeks, and this is how she spent the majority of her time.

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Some friends here gave me and Zach a mixed-culture baby shower when we got back.  Since I already had the majority of the baby things I needed that I kept from Levi, my American friends decided to bring diapers in lieu of gifts. The local friends that came thought it was very interesting. Practical, yet very different from what they would do. Here I am opening one of the gifts from a local friend Рa glass candy dish. Maybe she figured I needed the chocolate!

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Both boys had a blastūüôā

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Levi LOVES his little brother.

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It is not unusual for silence to fall over the house for 15-20 minutes at a time while this happens in Levi’s room.

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Zach is only slightly happier in the carseat than Levi ever was.

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How Grammie spent every afternoon!

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Grammy with her grandbabies.

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Family of 4.

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I love this face that Zach makes all the time!

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Brothers!

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We still have a lot of adjusting to do…come back soon, Grammie!

Zachary’s Birth Story

We arrived in Amsterdam when I was just over 35 weeks along. My blood pressure had been high, but well under control during this pregnancy, so I was anticipating getting to experience a “natural” labor – meaning that I would experience the breaking of water, the contractions, etc and whenever he came, he came. When we went in for my checkup with the OBGYN there, however, he informed me that he would still plan to induce 2-3 weeks early because the risks outweighed the benefits of Zach cooking a bit longer. He said my pressure would only go up, and there was really no reason to wait.

This meant we really only had a week or so before his arrival, since when they induce, or at least once they break your water, it is best to deliver within 24 hours, or get a C-section if you’re not progressing naturally. So this changed our mindset a bit, and we spent the next few days making sure we had everything ready to welcome the little guy home – to a home that actually wasn’t ours. We borrowed a few baby things from friends to supplement what we had been able to bring.

This also meant that Grammie, my mom, would not be able to be there for the birth as we had originally planned. We looked into changing her ticket, but it was cost prohibitive, and would have meant even more missed work for her. We decided to leave her ticket as it was, and would welcome her help at 2 weeks old! In the meantime, my Dad(Papaw) decided on the spur-of-the-moment that he would like to come out and be there for the birth. It was comforting to know that Levi could stay home and sleep in peace if we were overnight at the hospital. He planned to arrive the day before I was to go in for the induction.

The Netherlands has a very high percentage of midwife assisted, in-home births. The majority of other births are midwife assisted at a birthing center, and the small minority of “high-risk” births are the only ones permitted to be at a hospital. We do hear that you can choose to rent a room at the hospital – if there is one available – if you prefer that to giving birth at home, but it is not guaranteed you will have a spot so you can’t really count on it. That being said, I was considered high-risk, so we would be planning to induce and deliver at the University hospital. It is a large teaching hospital that happened to be about 10 minutes drive from where we were staying! The induction was scheduled for Tuesday, April 19, just before I was 38 weeks along. I was instructed to call the L&D ward at 6pm to see if there was a place open for me. I was anxiously awaiting for the moment to arrive ALL DAY LONG. I stared at the screen on my phone as it changed from 5:59, and I immediately called the number they gave me. I was surprised and disappointed when the nurse casually replied that they were full, and I should call back at 7:30. We all found this pretty funny, and so we decided to go ahead and have dinner. I called back when they said, and they told me that they did have a bed saved for me, but they were cleaning and getting it set up, so if I could come in around 9pm that would be great.

This actually turned out better than we could have planned. We finished dinner, playtime, and bedtime with Levi just like normal, and then were able to leave while he was asleep.

Like I said, the hospital was a less than 10 minute drive, and we were there in no time.¬†Jonathan dropped me off at the front, and I went straight in and sat down in the lobby to wait for him to park the car. What seemed like at least a half hour later, Jonathan came in a different door and looked very confused. Jonathan is the most directionally adept person I know, so this was pretty surprising. He asked me what door I had come in, and I pointed to the one about 20 feet from where I was sitting, the one he dropped me off in front of. He did not believe me! It was so funny how turned around he got at that hospital. I’ll admit it was very convoluted the way the parking garage and entrance were situated (I didn’t see this until we were leaving of course).

Anyway, we make our way to the L&D area, where is is dark and quiet. We did manage to find a nurse who showed us to the room and hooked me up to all the monitors. At around 11pm, the doctor and his student (this was a teaching hospital, so there was always 2 of everything…oh joy) came in to explain what they were going to do. This was a pleasant change from my previous birth experience with Levi, where I kept getting ushered into places and hooked up to things without much information. For my induction in the US, they started me by hooking me up to the pitocin right away and cranking it up to what felt like full-blast, and the contractions became unbearable after only a few hours. I was pretty traumatized by that experience and so I had some trepidation coming in to this one.

****At this point, if you are not interested in hearing about details of dilation and contractions and pushing….etc….then please feel free to skip this part of the story and scroll down to the pictures and coming home event! ****

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11pm – So anyway, the doc and his student came in and explained that I was only dilated about 2cm, and they would prefer I was around 4cm before we started any pitocin or breaking the water, etc. They said they would like to see the labor progress as naturally as possible, and without pitocin, if possible. I like this idea. The plan now was to insert a balloon that they would inflate with a small amount of water. This¬†would put pressure on the cervix and hopefully cause it to flatten. It was minimally invasive, but they wanted me to stay overnight so they could continue to monitor my blood pressure. Jonathan was sent home, I was moved to “the ward,” as they kept calling it, and we both tried to get some sleep. Jonathan sent me this picture to show me Levi was just fine!

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The doctor and student said they’d be back in the morning to check the success of the balloon. About 1:15, I was settled in and tried to go to sleep. At 3:15, I wake up to use the bathroom and was so loud about it that I woke up a roommate I didn’t realize existed. Oops, sorry about that! We both tossed and turned the rest of the night, and were pretty much awake by 6:30.

7am, someone came in and delivered juice to me. It turns out it was meant for my roommate. This is when the next shift of nurses seemed to discover I was there and just who exactly I was. I guess sneaking in “The Ward” so late at night was a bit unusual. I begin chit chatting with my roommate and discover she has had the balloon in for almost 24 hours and it still hasn’t helped her progress. Slightly discouraging news, since apparently they told her it could take up to 36 hours!

8am, I contemplate taking a shower but I am starving and I don’t want to risk missing breakfast.

9am…breakfast arrives, praise the Lord. I send Jonathan a picture since we’ve been texting back and forth that morning and he is afraid he is going to have to break in and deliver me food (visiting hours in The Ward don’t start until 10am).

9:45am, the doctor and his student come in to check me and the balloon is out! This means I’m at least 3cm, so we are ready to get this baby moving. Literally. The doc says he will notify the L&D area and as soon as a bed opens up they will move me down there.

11:45am, the bread cart arrives and I get lunch. The bread cart lady was the only person I saw at the hospital who couldn’t speak English. She was very frustrated with me for not being Dutch, and she decided just to pick out my lunch for me instead of letting me point to words I recognized on the menu.

12:15pm, I’m done with lunch and still just waiting, so I decide to take a shower. Nothing else to do but wait, and my roommate’s husband is in our room visiting so I also stay out to dry my hair and put on some mascara. Jonathan arrives a bit later with more lunch and to hang out.

1:45pm, the nurse comes in to apologize for how long its taking to get me a bed. I say no problem, and just out of curiosity, I ask how many beds there are. 6! I couldn’t believe it. And this was a large teaching hospital! This really shows how rare the hospital births are here.

2pm, a bed opens up, and they come to move us to the room where Zachary will make his appearance!!! They want to take the bed I’m in, but I decide to walk. We are not sure why the bed had to come too since there is already one in the room. This is still a mystery.

2:45pm, doctor and student come in to break my water and see if we can get labor started. Everyone’s English is phenomenal, but there were a few phrases that I heard people say that contained the same mistakes. It was entertaining for us. One of these was “rupture the membrames.” It kept cracking me up and I never corrected anyone. So when I go to deliver my next baby here they will probably still be saying it.

3:45pm, not much progression, so they start the pitocin iv.

4:55pm, contractions are starting to get a bit stronger and more frequent. Jonathan runs out for food, and literally 2 minutes after he leaves, the motor starts beeping like crazy because Zach’s heart rate has dropped out. Not going to lie, I started to freak out just a little bit that he was gone.

5:05pm, nurse comes in to fix monitor and easily finds him again. She leaves to go ask doc if she should increase pitocin or not. I’m thinking we’re good at this point but they are the experts.

5:15pm, I start freaking out a bit more because they are definitely stronger and looking regular. Jonathan come back!!!

5:45pm, Jonathan gets back right after my dinner arrives. After just google searching whether it was ok to eat during labor, it was funny to see the slab of meat, potato salad and Lima beans I was served. Forget ice chips…Bon Apetit

6:15pm, doc was happy to see I was still here after meeting us last night. He said he really wanted to help me deliver so he was glad I waited on him. He checked and I had progressed to 4cm. They went ahead and increased pitocin.

7:00pm, I had progressed to about 5 cm, soon after this the pain started getting more intense.¬†At this point in labor with Levi, I¬†still had most of the night¬†to go, and would not deliver him until 11 the next morning. I got an epidural and ended up being completely numb through the rest of delivery. So this time around I was concerned with the intensity of contractions the pitocin was bringing, and I didn’t think I could make it hours and hours more. I requested to speak with the doc about pain medication. You may remember I had back surgery last year. Because I still had remnants of nerve damage in part of my left leg, the doctor had told me he didn’t know if the anesthesiologist would approve me to get an epidural. I was hoping at this point he would approve me because I felt like I was going to die. And I told Jonathan so…several times.

8:00pm, the pain was extremely intense, and I told Jonathan I was stupid not to have asked earlier for pain meds and that I just couldn’t do it (as if there was a choice at that point) and that I was for sure going to die.

8:15pm, ¬†I start frantically telling Jonathan that, “MY BODY IS PUSHING HIM OUT!!! CALL THE NURSE!!!” I was so surprised by this sensation since last time I didn’t feel anything at this point of labor. With Levi, I used the heart rate monitor beeping to let me know when a contraction was coming and I needed to push. This time around…I COULD FEEL EVERYTHING. Jonathan is pressing the call button like crazy to get someone to come in. I think they thought I was just in pain and still wanted to talk about an epidural. Nope, I just didn’t want my husband to have to deliver the child that was PUSHING HIMSELF OUT.

8:30pm, the doctor arrives and realizes it’s go time! I push through 3 contractions, and…

8:45pm, Zachary David arrives. The doctor says, “give me your hands.” I am shaking uncontrollably, but at least I’m lucid this time!¬†They place my little boy in my trembling hands, and then he rests on my chest. Wow, what a feeling. I couldn’t believe I did it! I really thought I was going to die before actually delivering this child but there we were, alive…and it was over! I had a couple of minor tears that the doctor stitched up, and then everyone left the room.

For the next hour and half, we didn’t see or hear from anyone. Sometime after 10, they come in and weigh and measure him and check on my bleeding. This was neat to have the time, but I was really uncomfortable since I was still sitting on the same bed where I delivered, and it was really messy. I really wanted to get up and use the bathroom and clean up but I was hooked up to fluids on the iv.

Zachary’s stats:

48 cm / 18.9in
2750 g / 6lbs 1oz

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The midwife came and checked us both out, and then told us we could either stay and they would try to find a bed for Jonathan, or we could head home if we would prefer. So at 2:30am, we headed back home with our new, tiny little person. Papaw and Levi were sleeping, so we went on to bed without them being any the wiser.

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The next morning, we had planned for Levi to get to “discover” Zach, and also see the present Zach had brought him. We hoped this might¬†stave off some of the jealousy from the get-go if it worked. He seemed smitten with him right away.

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We felt so thankful for how the timing of his birth happened so beautifully. I felt so great, like 1000% better than I had after having Levi and staying in the hospital for 3 days!!! Call me crazy, but the day after having Zach I decided I was totally up for another one already! Haha that feeling didn’t last too long before we realized just how full our hands were going to be with both of these crazy sweet boys. Thank you, Lord, for your good good gifts to us.

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Amsterdam Days

We’ve definitely come to love this city. It is both an interesting and beautiful place. Despite some of its famed¬†unsavory-ness, it is clean (or at least well kept), and very easy to get around to see all it has to offer, both in the city and in the surrounding area. Although this stay was geared toward both work and the safe delivery of our child, we did in fact succeed in getting out and about to some of our favorite places as well as many new ones too.

Shortly after arriving, we celebrated our 9 year anniversary. Jonathan arranged childcare and a fantastic surprise date for us! I had absolutely no idea where we were headed, so color me surprised when we ended up at an old building, and were let inside by a strange man taking us to see the “architect” we had an appointment with. I really thought it was some kind of dinner theatre, but I changed my mind and got slightly concerned when the host did not take us to our seats but rather locked us in a strange room. It turned out to be a live game where you had to actually find different clues that eventually (if you were clever enough) would allow you to unlock the door of the room and escape before the time ran out. Our host had told Jonathan beforehand that the room was really meant for at least 4 people, and it would be very difficult with only 2. That didn’t stop us from figuring it out and escaping, though (9-months pregnant and all). Anyway it was super fun and I would definitely recommend it!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 1 of 31

Some friends were traveling and graciously allowed us to use their home. This was one of the biggest blessings of the trip. Levi called it “new home,” but it might as well have been heaven with all those toys there were to play with! One of his favs was the hot pink stroller.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 2 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 3 of 31

This is a train stop. The public transportation system is incredible here! Levi loved every minute of it too.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 5 of 31

The fire truck was almost as fun as the trains. This was outside the grocery store that was less than a 10 minute walk from “new home.”Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 6 of 31

My dad decided at the last minute that he would like to fly over for the  birth. We were happy to show him one of our favorite restaurants in the City, where we indulged in Dutch pancakes! This was the morning of the day I was going in to get induced. I needed the energy!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 7 of 31

Zachary’s birth story will be in the next post, but we will go ahead and skip on to after-birth happenings, since we still had about a month to stay while waiting for his passport! Here is Papaw with his 2 grandsons right before he headed back to the US.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 8 of 31

Zach was not a fan of the swaddle the way Levi was. He had to have his hands up by his face at all times, and completely rejected the swaddling notion within the first 2 weeks (in contrast, we finally took the swaddle AWAY from Levi around 10 months old when it just got ridiculous).Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 9 of 31

Survival with a newborn. Naps and more naps!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 10 of 31

Tuesday nights became “family movie night” because of the $5 pizzas we could pick up from a local place close to the house we were staying in.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 11 of 31

Bright eyes!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 12 of 31

Zach’s first bath. We improvised with a plastic mixing bowl.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 13 of 31

One week old and beautiful blue-eyed big brother!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 14 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 15 of 31

First walk as a family of 4. Also known as the day that Levi learned about dandelions and became obsessed.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 16 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 17 of 31

Out on the town to apply for Zach’s passport at the consulate.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 18 of 31

Outing to the park and first family of 4 picnic. Also known as the day Levi learned about cotton candy and became obsessed.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 19 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 20 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 21 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 22 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 23 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 24 of 31

After picking up Grammie at the airport, we drove through the tulip fields again on the way home. It was neat to see how much they’d changed since we saw them the first time.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 25 of 31

Saturday morning market in a nearby town called Harlem.Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 26 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 27 of 31

Zach’s first bottleAmsterdam happenings apr 16 - 28 of 31

Zach is way more of a snuggler than Levi. He especially loves his “happy spot.”Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 29 of 31

And finally, one last trip to the “gum-bo” as Levi calls it. He went at least every other day with either Daddy or Papaw. He loved to much the small cart around and was actually a really good helper. He even had the coin-return system figured out better than any of us!Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 30 of 31Amsterdam happenings apr 16 - 31 of 31

We finally got to head back home about a month after the birth when we received Zach’s passport. It was an unforgettable couple of months!

Tulip Garden

At the beginning of April, we traveled to The Netherlands to wait for the arrival of our second son. We had been seeing a doctor at home, who had been monitoring my blood pressure, but also saw a doctor in Amsterdam earlier this year, who thought it would be best for us to some about a month before my supposed due date to deliver there.

 

Zach had impeccable timing when he chose his birthday month. We are in Amsterdam during the very few weeks that the world-famous tulip fields would be blooming! It’s been a dream of mine to see these fields in person, but honestly when we were planning to travel here it didn’t even cross my mind. What a wonderful surprise to realize we would have a chance to visit the famed Keukenhof Gardens outside of the city one afternoon.

My ninth month brought excruciating sciatic pain, rendering me daily useless in helping Levi with anything, and making it very slow and hard for me to walk. Remember when I had back surgery last year? Yeah…it felt like it did before my surgery and scared me silly that my pain had come back!

Anyway, I decided that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I wasn’t going to miss it, so we spent a beautiful dream-like day at the gardens. Jonathan was so patient with us both, and we saw as much as we could, considering the 2 year old toddler could actually walk a good bit faster than his mom. I only cried a few times and I don’t think either one of them noticed. The pain was worth it! Thank you, Lord, for this awesome day. We are ready for you now, baby Zach!

 

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Easter Picnic

We had fun on Sunday with an Easter Celebration picnic with some friends and coworkers here. Although for days its been sunny and in the high 60’s, we got cloud cover, drizzle, and wind on Easter morning. It didn’t stop us form having a great time though. We only got a few pictures because the phone died, but Levi had a blast with the egg events. He only got 3 “points,” but I am awesome and got action shots of 2 of them going in the baskets!!! As Levi would say, “Great job, Mommy!”

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He loved the Easter egg hunt as well. After we explained the basic concept, he got really excited to find the eggs.

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Yes, thats yet another bump on the noggin for our little man. This one happened at the park about a week ago but already looks better today than it does in this picture. Poor guy will get his balance eventually. Also, he looks kind of miserable in this picture but he was really having fun. Stopping for an obligatory picture with the parents was not, however, part of this fun I guess.

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Hangin’ out!

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Before all the fun egg festivities, we did have a celebration service to rejoice in the sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior. This is, of course, the foundation of our faith and the most important celebration in history! We hope, you too, were able to spend time reflecting on the love and plan of the one true God who loved us enough to make a Way. He is Risen indeed!