The Best Days, Ever.

Today is an exciting day in the Coke House…we are celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary!  Time flies when you’re having fun, right?  In honor of the special day, I thought I’d reflect back over the past 2,922 days.
Eight years ago, we were both in our 20s (some of us in our very early 20s!)  George W. was still in office.  None of our friends had children.  Facebook was an unknown.  Cadillac Williams still played for the Bucs, and we went 11-5 in our 2005 season.  Evan and I both had siblings still in high school.  Brad and Jennifer were still married.
Life has changed.  Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane…
Eight years and an undisclosed number of pounds ago…
We tied the knot at my home church in Pahokee, where I spent some of the best years of my life, and PFUMC will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Hurricane Wilma had ravaged both coasts just three weeks prior; we didn’t even know at the time if our wedding could happen, but God willing, it did.  We were forced to move our reception location due to damage at the Elk’s Lodge in Pahokee.  Our florist, Fran, went as far as Miami to find THE flowers we had picked out months earlier.  We patiently waited days and weeks for electricity to be restored.  It all came together in an imperfectly beautiful and wonderful celebration.

Mr. & Mrs. Coke

Happily Ever After

We honeymooned in Key West.  We literally crawled Duval.  I climbed on stage at Sloppy Joe’s and sang “I Wanna Be Sedated” with a punk band from Minneapolis.  We happy houred at Irish Kevin’s at 10am.  We pet six toed cats and sting rays.  Evan got food poisoning from a Cheeseburger in Paradise.
We traveled.  We fell in love with Western NC, and have returned half a dozen times.  We have hiked over 300 miles.  Evan grew a mountain man beard. We plan to continue visiting every year until I can convince Evan to buy a mountain and build a cabin.
 Downpour on the AT.

 Day hike to Siler’s Bald.

 Tubing on Deep Creek.

“…got to set down and take a rest on the porch.”
We took a 4,000 mile road trip from Cape Coral to Washington DC, then to New Jersey for Evan’s 10 year high school reunion, then north to Niagara Falls, and west to Fort Knox, KY.  We visited monuments, toured Radio City Music Hall, ate Thanksgiving dinner at a hoity toity restaurant in the Upper East Side.  Then we watched my brother graduate from Basic Training, and prayed for his new journey and career in life as a Combat Medic in the US Army.

 Rockefeller Plaza

 Top of the Rock.

 Cannoli time!


 Lincoln Memorial

 CPL Cameron M. Hatton

 Proud sister.

We survived several hurricanes, both of the meteorological and real-life variety (not to mention the number of hurricanes consumed on our honeymoon in Key West). 
Both my parents and Evan’s grandmother lost their homes in Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne.  We headed to the east coast to help salvage what was left.  We cried endless tears upon seeing the devastation.  We prayed for restoration.  And our families overcame the struggles.
We welcomed Maggie Mae in our lives.  Then Kiwi.  Then the “Wild Bunch”: Blueberry, Patches and Frankie, a litter of kittens abandoned in our neighborhood.  Mai Tai, my old tabby cat, remains my “first born” regardless of our ever growing family.

Mai Tai, my first born, adopted in 2003. 

Maggie Mae joined the fam in 2006. 


The Wild Bunch, left to right: Blueberry, Patches and Frankie
We decorated eight Christmas trees.  The pets only knocked over one.
My baby brother got married in Germany, and I gained an amazing sister-in-law.
Jess and Cameron
We turned 30.  And then some.

We found CCFUMC.  We became members.  Our lives forever changed, for the better.
We made many, many friends.  Many friendships grew; few failed.  We have been immensely blessed by the people in our lives, who we consider an extension of family.  Some have moved on, and there is greater time and distance between us, but an unconditional love remains. 
We grew deeper in our faith.  I picked the bass guitar back up.  I discovered worship through music.  Evan discovered worship through the tech ministry and running the sound board.  Our lives were again forever changed, for the better.
We bought our first home.  We renovated one room at a time, and finished the interior remodeling earlier this year.  I am now ready to paint the dining room again.

My favorite renovation, by far.

 A space for Baby C.

Our surprise to be…

We started a small business.  We grew.  We bought another small business.  And we continue growing and persevering.  Evan is overly humble about his accomplishments.
We said goodbye to some of our greatest loves and supporters.

My Moosie.

With Grandpa Lee and Grandma Lil.


August 16, 2012

Eight weeks!

Announcing to the world…

39 weeks!  Only two (long) weeks to go…

We experienced the most awesome, incredible, amazing, sunshine and rainbows day of our lives when we welcomed Miles Clark to the world.  We did not know then the overwhelming love, joy and happiness that would now fill our home.  We became parents.  It still sounds funny when I say it out loud.  Miles does let us know we’re doing an awesome job, though.

That face still gets me, every time.

Love at first sight.

My boys.

One day old.

I did not think I could love Evan more; then, I saw him as a father, and I found a new love that I didn’t know existed.  And we both found that it was possible to have an enormous mountain of love for a teeny, tiny person.
The Cokes – October 2013

The past 2,922 days have been an unbelievable journey, and there is no single person on this planet I would have spent it with besides Evan.  We have journeyed, side by side and hand in hand, through peaks and valleys, good times and bad, tears of joy and tears of sadness, together.  

I am tremendously blessed with his love and friendship.  He is my rock, my best friend, my happy place, and the most amazing father in the entire world.  My heart still skips a beat when he enters a room, just like it did over 10 years ago when we first met.  

And I cannot wait to see what life has in store for us next.

I love you to the moon and back, and then some.


The Pizza That (FINALLY) Broke My Water

For me, being pregnant was all kinds of awesome.  From the moment we found out we were expecting we were completely in love with the tiny little miracle that had just checked into a womb at the Coke Four Seasons.   In addition to that, I had also fallen in love with choosing names, creating our dream nursery, visiting Dairy Queen once a week, never having to suck in my stomach, and living in yoga pants and flip-flops the final three months (along with the first six).  I never had morning sickness, never had to stop wearing my rings, never grew a moustache and didn’t turn into a complete hormonal mess (well, no more of a mess than my usual state).  Yes, for me, pregnancy was *super* awesome.

The days, weeks and months ticked by; April 16th was fast approaching.  We were beyond excited.  The only thing more awesome and exciting than being pregnant is being unpregnant.
At our March 25th appointment, we found out we were one centimeter dilated – hooray!  Right on schedule.  We were past our “weekly appointment” stage, and our midwife decided we should come back in a few days.  We were eager to see what progress had been made.  Our next few appointments went something like this:

         April 1st: one centimeter.
         April 5th: one centimeter.
         April 8th: one centimeter.
         April 10th: one centimeter.
         April 15th: one centimeter.

Yes, the day before D-Day, and we were still at one centimeter.  I was having serious, lengthy discussions with then-named Baby C about the importance of arriving on time (this, from a woman who was perpetually 10 minutes late for everything before having children).  I explained to Baby C that mama is notoriously challenged in the punctuality department.  I started thinking that this was God’s way of impressing the importance of timeliness upon me.  Nice one, Big Guy.
At our appointment on April 18th, our midwife let us know she was perfectly fine with us going one week past our due date, but then they would induce.  I was completely and adamantly against induction; not because I’m some hippy who just wanted things to happen on their own (although that was part of it), but because I absolutely terrified of being induced.  I had learned enough from friends, birthing class and horrifying mommy blogs to know that the last thing I wanted was someone cramming a knitting needle up my hoo-ha to break my water, then “kick-starting” labor with an IV bag full of the worst contractions ever, thankyouverymuch.
So we left the appointment, scheduled to come back the next day to see if we were any further dilated.  I had another very serious conversation with Baby C.  Something along the lines of, “You have seven days to get here or you’re grounded until you’re 30.”
Friday’s appointment rolled around.  We were now three days past our due date.  I remember my midwife asking me if it would make me feel better if she just lied and said we were dilated 2 centimeters, wink-wink nod-nod.  I said yes.  And with that, the induction was “tentatively” scheduled for the 24th.

I started maternity leave.  I waddled miles and miles around the block.  I bounced on an exercise ball.  I ate spicy food.  I tried dancing in my living room.  I attempted some maternity yoga that ended with me ass-over-tea kettle and laughed at by three of our four cats.  I’m pretty sure I even heard my husband’s stupid parrot laughing at me.  Yes, we did everything (and I mean everything) we could think of to encourage labor.  Baby C’s response was always a series of kicks to my ribcage, followed by an elbow to the bladder and some wicked heartburn.    
Saturday, April 20th.  Still plenty of time.  We went to Publix to pick up the ingredients for our pizza, which we make every Saturday night.  When we were checking out, our regular cashier (with her endearing Bostonian accent) asked us the same question she asked every week, “When ah yah due?!”  Tonight, my response was, “LAST TUESDAY.”  She smiled and said, “Take the bumpy road home tonight and pack yah hospital bag, that baby’s comin’.”
So we took the bumpy road.  We made pizza, extra red pepper flakes.  I poured a glass of red wine (at four days late, the kid was done baking).  We stuffed our faces, and watched an old horror movie.
At 2:30am, I got up for the 47th time that night to pee.  I sat down, and started thinking, “Good grief, how much water did I drink?”  Then I realized what had happened…
I quietly and calmly awoke Evan, and told him my water broke.  Then I did what I’m sure most women going into labor do: I took a shower, shaved my legs, mopped the house and emptied the dishwasher.  I also called the maternity ward (I never wanted to be one of those women who goes to the hospital umpteen times thinking she’s in labor) and just like a Verona Beach retiree, I could hear Rod Roddy’s voice telling us to COME ON DOOOOOOWN!  We were the next contestants on, “Guess How Dilated You Are!”

We arrived around 4:30am, and were taken to maternity triage.  Another girl, probably 30ish weeks along with the most horrific morning sickness ever, came in right behind us.  There, in the 30×30 room, separated only by little curtains, we got to listen to her chorus of vomiting for half an hour before the triage nurse came in to see if I needed to stay.  Yes, even though I was sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid (on a pee pad; yes, all dignity is out the window when you embark on the adventure of having children) we still needed to decide if Baby C was really on the way.
The nurse decided we’d start the first round of “Guess How Dilated You Are!”  By now, Baby C had dropped so low that it was nearly impossible to get to my cervix (don’t worry; this is about as TMI as it gets today).  When the nurse finally found it, the pain was so intense that I had one of those Linda Blair in The Exorcist moments.  I apologized, knowing the nurse had probably heard and seen much worse.  She just smiled and said, “Don’t worry honey, you’re three centimeters dilated!”  Now, that might not seem like much, but after holding steady at one centimeter for what felt like six weeks, we were excited.
Unfortunately, the poor girl across the curtain got to hear my momentary possession.  I could almost see her second thoughts about childbirth.  Here I was, not even really in labor, practically climbing the walls and wailing in pain.
6:30am – Contractions start.  Not too bad, but not something I’d want to experience on the reg.  All back labor, thanks to Baby C’s headfirst plunge into the birth canal.
8:00am – Still three centimeters.  Contractions getting stronger.

9:00am – Still three centimeters.  Pitocin started.  Extreme terror sets in.

9:15am – Triage nurse comes in, increases pitocin to 3mL.

9:30am – STILL. THREE. CENTIMETERS.  Pitocin increased to 5mL.

10:00am – Sigh.  Still three.  Pitocin increased to 7mL.

10:15am – Contractions getting super strong.  The last four hours have been spent bouncing on an exercise ball between bouts of what I’m certain sounds like a pelican squawk.  Women with children, you know what I’m talking about.  The nurse comes in – again – and increases the pitocin to 9mL.

10:30am – Nurse comes in.  I give her the death stare.  Evan laughs at me.  Pitocin goes to 11mL.

11:00am – More death stares, more pitocin.  Evan may also have a few fractured fingers.

11:30am – Sadistic nurse sent by the Anti-Christ comes in.  Sees my face.  Wisely decides against more pitocin.

Noon – Time for round two…FOUR CENTIMETERS DILATED!  Now I’m allowed to lay down, hallelujah.  We’re officially in “active” labor (I don’t know what they called the last three hours of pitocin hell…) and we can “expect” to dilate one centimeter every hour until we hit the big 1-0.
Here’s the thing about contractions…they are completely unexplainable.  There’s no way I could put into words what the feeling is like; it’s painful, but not like any pain you’ve experienced.  I think because it’s pain with a purpose.  Oh yes, it hurts, but once the contraction is over you enter a brief (very, very brief) state of euphoria.  You’re hooked up to the monitor, and you can watch your contraction lines going…you can see how long they are, and how strong they are.  The monitor picks up the strength just seconds before you really feel it.  I remember lying on my side, watching that stupid green line as it would dramatically jump into Mount Everest territory.  I would prepare myself for what was coming next.  And then it was over, and you could recover, even if it was only a few seconds.

We had decided against the epidural long ago, after watching a terrifying video during birthing class and reading some horrific posts on a few mommy blogs (stay away from the too-serious mommy blogs, ladies…)  Those few seconds of recovery helped to reaffirm that I could do this; it wasn’t that bad.

Around the time of The Green Line of Torture, my midwife came in for the third round of “Guess How Dilated You Are!”  It was 1:00p.  She sat down at the table to do some of our paperwork, and listen to me during the contractions.  One contraction later, and she decided it was time to play.  It had been an hour since active labor began; I was expecting to be at five, if we were lucky, six.  In my mind, I kept thinking that I had six more hours of this before sweet Baby C would arrive.  I was feeling t-i-r-e-d.
My widwife checked, and her face lit up like we’d hit the $10,000 slot on Plinko…

Holy cow.  All I could think was, “That was fast, that was fast, that was fast!”  I also wanted to throw confetti and spray champagne on people.  It was time.  Like really, REALLY, time, to start The Big Show.

The next hour was a blur, except for the end.  We were in the homestretch.  Baby C’s gigantic noggin was out; shoulders were out, just one more push and…STOP.  My midwife asked me to stop.  You want me to what?!  You spent the last 45 minutes asking me to push, push, push, push some more, breathe and push again, and now…just stop?

She asked me to stop so that Evan could be the person to deliver Baby C; so that he would be the first to hold our sweet baby, the first to know what our baby was.  Here we go…
One.  Last.  Push. 

I will never, ever forget Evan’s face when he erupted with, “It’s a BOY!”  I will never forget that instant feeling of love, of accomplishment, of pride, of joy, of peace, of family.  My goodness, your heart will literally explode.
Miles Clark Coke, 7lbs. 11oz., born April 21st, 2013

Love at first sight!
April 23, 2013 — The two men who melt my heart.
People will tell you throughout the journey of starting a family that you will never feel another love like this; that you never knew you could love like this.  I used to chuckle at the whole sap-fest of it all…the Lifetime movie stories my mom friends would tell me.  And then, we became parents.  Everything you’ve ever heard is absolutely, positively, 110% true.  There is no love like this.  It will overwhelmingly consume you.  You will know God in a new and amazing and incredible way, because you have experienced a miracle unlike any other.  There aren’t enough words in the world to express how becoming a parent changes you, for the better.  No, it isn’t always easy, but it is completely worth it.  Because for every long night of rocking in a chair with your sick baby, every hour of crying when teething begins, every ounce of spit-up dripping down the back of your shirt (again!), there are ten thousand moments of giggles, smiles, new discoveries, snuggles and love.  Your child will look at you in a way that will fill you with fear, with the realization that you are responsible for this tiny person – for their well being, their safety, their life.  But, you will also fill with complete joy, unconditional love, overwhelming thankfulness, and gratitude at the blessing you were given.
To say, “a love like no other” is really just the beginning of the adventure.
PS – Here’s the link to our pizza recipe: Makin’ a Pizza!
Thanks for hanging in there!

Seven Things I’ve Learned During Pregnancy

It’s been just over three months since I’ve shared a recipe or kitchen triumph (or tragedy) with you.  Amazing how life changes as soon as you find out your family is growing, huh?  Well, we’ve still been at it in the kitchen (and other places – obviously!) and while I hope 2013 will be a year of sharing more of our kitchen (and baby) adventures with you, I thought this would be a good time to write about my favorite thing we’re baking at the moment…Baby Coke!
Keep in mind that I’m not a fan of the sappy, mushy, twinkling hearts and Precious Moments clip art writing style (and hopefully my hormones never steer me in that direction).  So in true Kristin fashion – and in no particular order – here’s a list of things I’ve learned over the past 25+ weeks of growing a tiny human inside my body.  Enjoy. 🙂
Seven Things I’ve Learned During Pregnancy…

1.  Spaghetti is delicious for breakfast.  I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced any “strange” cravings (I prefer my ice cream with hot fudge and no pickles, thankyouverymuch) but on several occasions, I’ve had the overwhelming sense of, “I NEED TO EAT THIS RIGHT NOW!”  While staring into the refrigerator one Saturday morning, pondering over several healthy breakfast choices, I saw it…hiding behind the fruit salad and whole grain bread, quietly beckoning to be shoved in the microwave and wolfed down.  It was a  perfect and beautiful container of leftovers with my name (and Baby Coke’s) written all over it.  That was the morning I decided to forgo the oatmeal and low sodium V-8 juice…and have spaghetti.  And it was the most heavenly breakfast I’ve ever consumed.
2.  Our pets know we’re pregnant.  Normally, my cats love nothing more than to deploy an aerial assault, landing on my stomach and commencing to make biscuits (that’s what we call it when our cats knead).  And, for the first few weeks of pregnancy, a couple of them would still attempt that feat (which I cleverly thwarted with large throw pillows).  But after a while, they realized I wasn’t eating too much ice cream and getting a pooch…I was carrying life!  Now, the cats carefully avoid my belly during snuggle time.  Well, except when I’m laying on my side, then all bets are off.  Although, if Baby Coke decides to kick, the cats can feel it, and they’re noticeably annoyed.  Maggie, our Collie, has also been clued in to the pregnancy, but her…reaction…is a story for another time.
3.  Everything you eat causes indigestion.  Oh sure, I expected it from bell peppers, pineapple, red onions and hot wings…but I did not expect it from peanut butter, bananas, chicken ‘n dumplings and chocolate chip cookies.
4.  Am I forgetting to pee?  On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten up from the couch, gone to the bathroom, peed, returned to the couch, only to find I need to pee…again.  So either I’m forgetting, or Baby Coke is secretly squeezing my bladder, waiting for the most opportune moment to interrupt my day (or night) with the “sudden and frequent urge” to go.
5.  Feeling your baby kick, move and roll around in there is not only incredibly awesome, but it’s also incredibly weird.  Yes, you Hallmark watching, Dove chocolate eating, Cozy Comfort tea swilling ladies are correct…feeling your baby move is miraculous, awesome and amazing.  To really know there is life growing inside of you is incredible, and makes me appreciate how great our God truly is.  But, at the same time, Baby Coke does things inside me that really make me think we’re getting close to that scene in “Alien” (come on, you know the one…) and I have to ask the baby to PLEASE STOP PLAYING MY RIBS LIKE A XYLOPHONE!  It’s weird.  Amazing and awe inspiring, but weird.  
6.  Everyone has advice for you during pregnancy.  Even if they’ve never had children.  Or have a womb, for that matter.  I think any mom can agree to that…people will give you a plethora of unwarranted (and sometimes completely whackadoo) advice for no reason, other than they assume you must need it.  This is especially true during the first pregnancy.  Everyone from great grandmothers to the guy stocking the freezer section at our Publix has some bit of sage wisdom to share with me.  Some of it is great advice, and some of it…well, I politely smile and nod, sometimes even say “thank you”, but in my head I’m wondering if their children would be better off if they’d been raised by wolves…
7.  Enjoy your pregnancy the way you want to.  It’s your pregnancy; not your aunt’s, not your co-worker’s, not your neighbor’s.  Share the information you want to share, with who you want to, and don’t feel guilty when folks badger you about names, the baby’s sex, breastfeeding (seriously, why do SO many people want to know about my boobs?) sleeping arrangements or child rearing…you don’t have to share anything with these people.  Take time to rest, put your feet up, eat bonbons, watch all those lame B horror movies you’ve been storing in the DVR since October(sorry about that, honey!)…and go on many, many date nights.  
Because in a few months, your world will be turned upside down, and life is going to completely change…in a beautiful, miraculous, endlessly loving (and sometimes exhausting) but blessed and amazing way.