During the second weekend of September, we went on QUITE the glamping trip with friends. We packed up the kiddos and headed off on a 3-hour journey to a Jellystone Campground… but not for your average camping… because let’s be real, life is just a little easier with running water and a kitchen. And with 4 children under the age of 5, we were looking for easy & relaxing.

SO, we rented the grand Villa for the weekend and enjoyed all of the luxuries Yogi Bear & the Jellystone Park had to offer us, which was a bit less than normal, as we were a week or so past season.

The park-ground was a bit of a ghost town, but that made it all the better!

Our villa was a two-bedroom with a loft, full kitchen and a bathroom. See, glamping! AKA glamorous camping. To add to the hilarity, we actually had the kiddos stay in the bedrooms (our kids in one, our friends’ kids in the other) and the adults stayed upstairs in the loft, which featured 4 twin beds. This setup made our late-night camp fires easier.

The Jellystone theme for the weekend was “A weekend at the farm” and was filled with tons of activities from candy bar “horse races” to finding a needle in a haystack. We had such a great time!

The weekend itinerary:

I loved the early mornings strolling around the quiet campgrounds. It was one for the books!

Needle in a haystack:

Candy Bar Horse Races:


Craft Time with BooBoo:


Playing with Friends Near the Villa:

Egg Toss & Playing on the “Foot Pool” Field:

Dinner, Smores & Spooky Stories Around the Campfire:

Bedtime Story with Ranger Smith:

Random Fun:

The Crew:

A little lunch & Yogi Bear upon arriving home:

Finter 2019

Somehow summer FLEW by and it’s suddenly what Wisconsin is calling, “Finter”… aka what should be fall, but is being overtaken by Winter. School has started and my sweet Char is deep into Kindergarten. Full-day school and the beginning of her true “childhood years.” I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Before too much time has flown by and I fall WAY too far behind, I figured I’d post everything from the first day of school until now. SO, prepare yourself for an overload of photos from my sweet crew…

First Day of School:

I don’t know how it’s possible, but despite the crazy, every moment that passes seems to get better and better. The kids are amazing. This summer we switched them into the same room, which has been wonderful and psychotic. They love the shit out of each other, which tends to get in the way of sleeping. Their routine is essentially to stay up late playing one night and then crash hard and early the next night… and repeat. We definitely have to figure out a way to get them more sleep, but I will say, I don’t hate hearing them giggle all night.

Halloween was a blast! Charlotte refused all of my ideas for family costumes with her BIG DREAMS of being a “beautiful princess who is beautiful and fancy with real magic circles on her dress”… I couldn’t seem to find real magic circles on Amazon, but we did the best we could! And, Mr. Henry went from requesting an “Owlette” costume (from PJ Mask) – because she’s so beautiful – to Blippy. In the end, he was transformed into even more of a cartoon character and should never wear anything besides that damn costume ever again.

As a side, it should be noted that we FINALLY let the kids pick some candy to eat from their trick or treat haul… this morning… first time. Let’s just say that Mark and I got busted for eating so much of it. Somehow C seemed to remember specific pieces of candy she had received… oops. Noted for next year.

After the most perfect day for trick or treating (and a weekend FULL of birthday parties for C), Finter kicked in and we had our first snowfall. Literally days later, on Halloween. It was bananas… and magical! The kids loved it!

For Halloween, we made a SPOOKY feast and had the best night!

Other Halloween Highlights (C’s classroom Halloween party & “Bring a Friend to Dance Class” – C picked Henry as her friend)…

& Here are some pics from more fun since the beginning of the school year!

Charlotte’s Fun Run to raise money for school:

Charlotte’s Farm Field Trip (& Mommy’s first time as a field trip chaperone… note: riding a bus at 34 is not amazing):

Henry’s Farm Field Trip:

Apple Picking with Grandma & Grandpa & Public Market Lunch:

Uncle Matt & Aunt Hannah Come to Visit:

Charlotte’s Dance Class:

Henry’s Robot Class:

Mommy & Henry Facetiming:

Fall Backyard Fun:

Family Date Night:

Taste of Mequon & the Color Run (Mommy’s first 5k):

Family Photos – Behind the Scenes:

Miscellaneous Fun with Friends:

Family Love:

Adult Fun:

Goodbye School, Hello Summer

While Charlotte is still in her 4K school program with the public school, the kids’ Montessori school recently had their last day. Can you believe how much they’ve changed???

It should be noted that both of my children want to be parents when they grow up. Little sweeties. Specifically, Henry would like to be a “dad like my other dad”… aka like Mark. haha And my sweetie Charlotte’s favorite thing is her whole family.

And here are some other cutie pie pics from the morning…

The Baby Hem is THREE

Henry is officially three years and three days old. How has this happened? My baby’s feet are slimming down and starting to smell, his hands have lost their pudge, he is pretty much a grown adult. The gist? Time is flying and my baby is getting old.

Despite my internal tears being shed for the manner in which time is just flying by, this birthday has been so exciting. For about a month before Henry’s birthday, he started really getting excited. Asking at bedtime, “when I wake up from this nap, will it be my birthday?” and waking every morning asking, “is today my birthday??” The anticipation was really building.

In pure Melissa/Mark fashion, the night before Henry’s birthday consisted of a ridiculous amount of toy building and house decorating. We ran around like crazy people making sure everything was perfectly placed to give Henry a great birthday surprise when he woke up.

I set my alarm for 615am in hopes of waking up before Henry so I could see his reaction. However, the bugger beat me. At around 6, I heard his tiny voice, “Charlotte, look!!!!!”

I popped up and ran to catch Henry discovering each Thomas the Train decoration, piece by piece. Then the balloons and his GIANT, tablecloth-covered gift.

He was overwhelmed with excitement!

The kiddos played for the next couple hours while I got everything ready for our birthday breakfast. Our favorite little friends (neighbors) were coming over to enjoy a celebratory breakfast and some playtime.

After breakfast, our friends went home and we hopped in the car to go downtown to ride the new streetcar (which we called the train for excitement purposes). We took the “train” to the public market and ate a yummy lunch and ice cream outside, then took the streetcar back to our car. It was a great little adventure!

Then, nap time and a movie night picnic back at the house. We set up the projector and watched about an hour of cars before the tiny tots got bored and we moved on to playing with Henry’s new toys.

All in all, the celebration was great! We had such a happy day. These are the days I want to bottle up and keep perfectly preserved forever.

And, in terms of a Henry update, here are the facts…

Height: 3′ 1″ (39th percentile)

Weight: 33 lbs (65th percentile)

Random tid bits:

  • Henry can count to 6 in Spanish (10 with assistance – he has a hard time remembering 7 and 10)
  • He can spell his name and knows his birthday
  • Henry is incredibly verbal. He speaks just as fluently as his sister, so I won’t bore you with the bazillion words and phrases he has.
  • Henry is VERY clumsy and falls often.
  • Henry continues to be the snuggliest little dude ever. He is always there for a hug and/or smooch. This morning he randomly told me that “huggies are like snuggles”… true.
  • Henry has very dry warm hands. Holding his hand fills my little heart.
  • When Henry melts down crying, he often times will say – through heavy sobs – “MAAAMMMMY, I NEED A HUGGY.” Shweetie snuggler.
  • Henry is a pretty big manipulator. When he does something naughty and I kneel down to tell him that he cannot do said thing, he cups my face with his warm paws and says, “I’m sorry, mommy. I won’t do it again.” Then, mommy buys Henry a pony.
  • Henry has been in a pinching/pretend biting phase with Charlotte. Never too hard, but enough to piss her off. Thankfully he’s still perfect.
  • Henry says Charlotte with a hard “CH” sound and refers to her as, “My CHarlotte”
  • Henry still naps every day
  • Henry LOVES music and sings a lot.
  • H has serious passion for baseball and sports in general.
  • Henry often times wears his pants, underwear and shirt backwards.
  • When Henry rides his tricycle, he reminds me of the intro to the show Bobby’s World.
  • Henry insists on sleeping with his door open. Typically with his arms above his head. He’s a light sleeper, so I tend to sneak in for smooches before I go to bed.
  • Henry LOVES hard boiled eggs (which he calls hard oiled eggs) and avocado (which he calls “adocado”). He eats like a TANK. It is not uncommon for him to eat multiple bowls of cereal/oatmeal, 1-2 hard boiled eggs, turkey and fruit… ALL of that at one breakfast.
  • Henry sometimes sneaks in Charlotte’s room at night because he doesn’t like to be alone.
  • Henry always falls asleep gripping some toy… a car, a train, a ring, etc.
  • Henry picks out his own clothes and gets dressed by himself every morning. He also puts his shoes on and packs up/unpacks his backpack daily.
  • Henry loves trucks and dinosaurs.
  • Henry’s little mouth reminds me of my Grandpa Henry.
  • Up until about 2 weeks ago, we had Henry on a strict no dairy/no soy/no sunflower oil/no coconut diet to try to help with his chronic loose poops. It stopped helping, so we’ve since lifted the food restrictions. H is now living his best life.
  • Henry has a very captivating quality about him. People tend to fall in love with him instantaneously upon meeting him. He has a loud, squeaky voice and speaks very well for his age, which tends to catch the attention of strangers.
  • Henry is a boy to love. He is very kind-hearted and the sweetest little guy I’ve ever met. He’s also incredibly bright and perceptive. As a completely unbiased source, you know these things are 100% true.
  • Henry is happy.
  • Henry smiles with every inch of his body.
  • I love my baby.
  • Henry looks up to his sister and loves going to the same school as her. Their teachers tell me that they often play together at school… mostly H with C’s friends. They frequently walk around the playground holding hands or with C’s arms around him. Despite his little pinchy/biting phase, they are the best of buds.
  • Henry wakes Charlotte up almost every morning. He goes into her room, wakes her and then they play together until their kiddie alarm clock turns green, signaling that they can come out of their rooms.
  • At dinner time, Henry rates my meals with a thumbs up, down or sideways.

The Dragon

On January 29th, I went to my primary care doctor for a lump on my abdomen. I had been noticing the lump for at least a month – typically during my workouts – but hadn’t really thought much of it. Then, during one of the 4 snow days we had in January, I decided to google lump on abdomen. The results led me to go see my doc the next day.

At that first visit, my doc used the phrase “tumor on your abdominal wall” about 3 times. I quickly scheduled an ultrasound and continued googling. As I waited for the ultrasound appointment, I became a bit of a recluse. It’s interesting because I’m typically a wide open book, but there was something about this fear that was different than anything I had experienced in my life thus far. I didn’t want to talk about it… it was too much.

Mark came to the ultrasound appointment with me. We were both so nervous. The last time I had been there was to see our sweet Henry in the womb. Definitely a different experience this time. The ultrasound tech – who was the same tech we had during my pregnancies – eventually ended up telling me to relax. “It looks like a hematoma from a sports injury. Definitely not something to be overly concerned about.” Okay… deep breath.

I then went to the surgeon my primary care doc recommended. He confirmed that it’s likely a hematoma. I was told to watch and wait for 6 weeks. Despite not having any real sports injury, I do work out at Orangetheory 4-6 times per week and they thought that my fruit-pit of a lump was likely from a torn muscle. A hematoma should go down in size, so we’d wait and reevaluate.

After 2 or so weeks, I started to feel what seemed like another lump. I called and they told me to keep watching. By the next week, there was definitely another. Of course, I couldn’t get back into my doc for another week or two, but when I did, we began a new little journey.

There was in fact another and it was time to retire the hematoma theory and move on to the “zebra”… the rarity. My doc scheduled me for a CT scan. I was back to panicking. I spoke to a friend’s dad who suggested it might be a Schwanoma. My doctor had listed everything from a sarcoma to breast cancer. Nothing was off limits.

There was lots of waiting only to find out that the CT scan was inconclusive. Next step, needle biopsy. I’m going to be honest, I was not overly concerned about pain from this and was VERY unpleasantly surprised during and after. I assumed it was like a shot. I was wrong.

I had driven myself to the doc and met my husband there. I called him on my way back home and all of a sudden, the pain and overwhelming emotion hit. I had to go. All I could do was just drive. I had to get home, crawl into bed and just be in darkness.

My doctor had told me that the needle biopsy had something like a 92% diagnosis rate. No surprise that after waiting the weekend for results, I was told that the results came back inconclusive.

The next step was surgery. For someone who lives in the black and white, I was really stuck in grey. So much unknown. So many people telling me I would be okay, that it was probably nothing, that I shouldn’t worry… but me knowing that nobody knew how it was actually going to end up.

The surgery was hard for me to swallow. My surgeon would go in… he would perform a biopsy and send it to the lab while I was under. Depending on the results, he would either leave the tumor in, remove the tumor only, or do a wide resection, removing the tumor and healthy muscle and tissue. I would get to find out upon waking up.

The whole thing was so surreal. I got to the hospital with Mark on March 21, 2019, first thing in the morning. Mark insisted on taking pictures and of course, got a good laugh out of me…

Then, my parents came. In pure dad-form, he was cracking jokes, making me laugh, distracting me. Maybe throwing in a few of his, “I totally know how this goes” comments because my dad knows everything. Yes, I’m being sassy. Then, my MIL came and I instantly got choked up. I pulled it together until my surgeon came to get me. Then, as I got wheeled away, I couldn’t help but cry my little eyes out (and warn the doc not to say anything scary or weird while I was under).

I got into the surgical room, still crying. They asked me what kind of music I wanted to, which totally threw me. I think I said something like “folk pop music,” which in hindsight makes me laugh. I have no idea if music ever played. Next thing I know, I was waking up in recovery.

When I came to, I was told that they removed the tumor and just the surrounding healthy muscle/tissue… not a wide resection. Okay, good! The tumor was likely a desmoid tumor, which would be confirmed when the final biopsy results came in on March 25th. A desmoid tumor is a rare (2-4 people per million) sarcoma… it is typically not considered cancerous because it does not metastasize to other areas of the body; however, it is locally malignant and seems to have a high recurrence rate. My surgeon made what I believe to be a good judgement call… he preserved my healthy muscle and tissue, but as a result, left 50% positive margins (aka 50% of the sides that were touching the tumor still have microscopic traces of desmoid cells).

I was released from the hospital the same day as my surgery. To be honest, I’m still surprised by that. I’ve had two c-sections and the pain from this surgery topped th