Year in Review: 2017 Edition

It is easy to look back at 2017 and remember all the ways that this year was weird, hard, and chaotic. But, I started organizing my yearly photo-books (I make a 8×8 Shutterfly photo-book for every three months.  I intended to make a “yearbook” but let’s be real, I take WAY too many pictures of my children), I was reminded that there was far more joy and I am so thankful for it all.

Here is a recap of our year:

January

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Grandma Kimmy visited and went to the Treasure Island Kite festival.  We also had a visit from Laura and Nick. We rooted the Packer into the play-offs…but there is always next year (haha).

February

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We worked like crazy in December and January, so we took an impromptu trip to Orlando.  We stayed in an awesome suite and watched the Superbowl.  We randomly saw Jeff and Kristen since they were also in Orlando! We survived a few days without Daddy while he was at Keller Williams’ Family Reunion in Las Vegas for Valentine’s Day.  Doug got a new car: a black 4Runner.

March

For the big birthday month, we spent a week at the beach in Venice with Doug’s whole family.  They were all there for Camdon’s first birthday.  Doug celebrated his day at a Ray’s spring training game.  And, Donovan turned three with a Dino party.

April

We celebrated the wedding of Matt and Debbie in Gainesville. Andrew returned home from Bahrain.  And, we loved everything about the Easter season.

May

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For Mother’s Day, I got an awesome garden, so we spent lots of try out in the yard.  Donovan really loved the whole process of digging and watering.  We are so thankful for that huge backyard.  We have spent so many hours playing out there!

June

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My childhood bestie got married and I was thrilled to stand by her side!  Doug and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. Our AC died on Father’s Day and we booked a trip of a lifetime to Iceland and Sweden.

July

Obviously, this is the best month of year!  I celebrated my 31st birthday and we spent our annual week on Anna Maria Island.  This year we bought our own timeshare!

August 

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Right after our week at the beach, Doug told me he wanted me to come see a house. Little did we both know that we would move three weeks later. This month was sheer chaos.  Packing, prepping the new house (it needed WORK), renting our house, and moving.  I’m tired thinking about it all.  We love our new home! And, we loved seeing our dear friends, the Motleys, who visited during the chaos.  Y’all, only good friends (who see you at your most stressed) can come visit you during such a crazy season. As if there wasn’t enough change in our lives, Donovan switched to a new house, new room, new bed (Toddler bed instead of the crib) and started a new school.  Homeslice did not know what hit him.

September

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This month is defined by one word: IRMA. Mic Drop.

OK, but really, so stressful.  We boarded up and traveled to South Carolina and stayed with my dear and very pregnant friend, Sarah.  We also ended up in the same town as my ride-or-die momma friend, Jen.  The photo above is us with the kids at a Chick-fila. Shortly after returning home, we all had the plague and were home sick for about two weeks. My baby sister, Rachel moved to Chicago.

October

We took a trip to Kansas to visit the Motley crew and celebrate Evey’s fourth birthday. We loved the Midwest fun at the farm. We literally finished the Whole30 days before the trip.  The 30 days of the Whole30 might have been the quietest part of our year…go figure. For Halloween, we dressed up as the Wizard of Oz. I was very proud that I was able to sew the boy’s costumes.

November

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I took a trip to Chicago for Leah’s rescheduled (Thanks, Irma) Bachelorette. She got married the next weekend.  It was a beautiful day and I was honored to stand by her side and her Matron on Honor. Sidenote…being the MOH is a ton of work. Other sidenote…I OFFICIALLY have a BROTHER!  Grandma Kimmy came back to help and so did Ashley. Thanksgiving was a wonderful season and we started Christmas early as we prepared for our big trip. PSA: check your passports before you book your trip. If you don’t, just know that Miami does same day issuance, which I do not recommend.

December

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Iceland and Sweden was amazing. I wish we could travel the world everyday. We loved sharing this trip with Grandma and Grandpa DeGroot.  We did not see the Norther Lights and we had very little snow (all that we saw was in this picture), but the kids had a blast and we all had so much fun.  Christmas through the eyes of your children is such a blessing and we enjoyed a beautiful and simple holiday. This year, most of our gifts didn’t fit under a tree because we did them (trip to Europe and our annual sister day). Doug also go a new car: a navy blue 4Runner.

For real estate, we helped 42 families buy or sell this year. And, together we reached our highest production ever!  That is called hustle, my friends.  And, we are forever thankful for our amazing customers, family and friends who chose us to help them.

While this year might look awesome and positive, do not let my recap lead you to believe that it was easy.  We were manic and stressed and tired and sick and crabby so much this year. Looking back, I am grateful for all that we did and everyone that we saw, but I do not recommend it. Be sensible people!  This year we will be saying ‘no’ more. We will be taking care of our family’s health (mental, spiritual, and physical) as our primary goal. We will be simplifying and staying still more often. And, I’m sure there will be adventure and fun, just maybe a little less.  And, that is A-OK with us!

WHEW!  What a year!  We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings us!

With Love,

Jenna

Reflections on the First Year of Parenthood

After one year of parenthood, it is pretty hard to imagine life any other way.  In my mind, life is divided into life before Donovan and life after.  For me, motherhood has completely altered my life.  In so many wonderful ways.  It kind of blindsided me and it still hasn’t quite sunken in how much I am grown and changed.  What I do know is that the first year of being a mom has been one of the most challenging, thought-provoking, earth-shattering, emotional, and wonderful years of my life.  As I reflect on what this year has meant to me, I thought I would share my big take-aways.

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Parenting is not one-size-fits-all

I read a lot of books before Donovan was born.  I wanted to know what the best practices were for parenting.  I quickly learned that there are a million ways to raise your child and plenty of philosophies to align with.  Just ask any parent what their favorite baby item is and you will get fifty different answers.  Parents have opinions about everything because some things work for some babies and some don’t.  Some brands are better to some people and what some parents see as a must-have, just isn’t important to others.

So where do you begin when you are faced with tons of well meaning, yet conflicting advice?  Well, for starters, you should listen, because you never know when you might hear something helpful.  And, of course be gracious because other parents only want to make your experience better by learning from their errors or tried and true methods.  But, don’t take it all as gospel.  You have to find what works for you.  Pure and simple.

Most importantly, remember that there isn’t really a right and wrong.  Parenting isn’t a competition to see who is the best parent and who does everything right.  We are all lucky to survive, so don’t poke fun at what works for others. This job is hard enough.  And, take all advice graciously, yet with a grain of salt.

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Oh the things I said I would never do…

Just never say never.  It is the kiss of death.  Co-sleeping. Cloth diapers. Breastfeeding past one year.  I never saw any of that coming.

Our first family photo :)
Our first family photo 🙂

Your schedule does not always work for baby

This one came as possibly the largest shock.  I read a book that talked about getting your baby on a perfect sleep, feeding, and waking schedule.  I loved the idea of structure and a formal plan.  Oh, how I was wrong.  I guess all of the best laid plans go out the window when you are sleep deprived and you have  a screaming baby in your arms.

I learned that sometimes what you think will work, just doesn’t.  You have to listen to your baby and be ready to adjust.  Or else, you will be adding extra stress and unnecessary pressure to your already chaotic life.

Donovan's first Easter!
Donovan’s first Easter!

Trust your gut

Sometimes things will not feel right.  You won’t be able to put your finger on it.  It’s that feeling that just won’t quit.  Always remember that you know your baby best.  You know what normal looks like for your child and you are the best person to observe changes.  The first year is filled with subtle changes and little fevers and runny noses.  When you feel that something is wrong, always trust your gut.  And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Being less selfish was easier than I thought

Before children, I always thought that I wasn’t ready to be a parent because I wasn’t ready to give up my freedom. Sleeping in, going out, lounging on the couch, drinking coffee and wine, daily workouts.  But, the moment we decided to get pregnant and I slowly began to cut out caffeine and alcohol, I realized that the things that I thought I would miss really didn’t compare to the new person in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss the sleep and I miss the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want.  But, I wouldn’t trade that freedom for the world. Nothing compares to the happiness that Donovan brings to our lives.  Slowly, some of that freedom returns as your baby gets older. And someday, I know we will look back and miss those baby days and forget all about the things that we had to give up.

First day back to work!
First day back to work!

How do they grow so fast?

Seriously.  It is absolutely amazing. And, horrifying because you realize how quickly these moments that you desperately want to cherish are simply slipping through your fingers.  And all those Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents who said that “they would grow up so quickly right before your eyes” were completely and totally right.

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Why does everything freak me out?

I would not consider myself an anxious person.  But once Donovan arrived, I suddenly began in to worry about the most unlikely and improbable scenarios occurring.  I knew that these worries were unwarranted and slightly over-protective, but I just could not imagine anything happening to my little guy.  And, suddenly the world seemed like such a dangerous place.  The car ride home from the hospital sent me over the edge because I realized that everyone was texting and driving or speeding or being reckless.

I have never been a huge fan of the news, but I had to stop watching.  Everyday there are children who are abducted, killed, lost, injured, neglected and I just did not need any new ideas added to my worrying mind.  I also developed a new appreciation for my own parents.  I now understood the worry and anxiety I put them through when I didn’t call like I said I would or when I was late coming home at night.  I guess there are a lot of ways that you find a new appreciation for you parents after becoming one.

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Life will never be the same

My favorite quote about parenthood is from author Elizabeth Stone.  She said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Once Donovan arrived, life changed in a million ways for the better.  Possibly the best was the new love that Doug and I found in being his parents.  And just like all parents, we want what is best for him.  We want him to have a perfect and wonderful life and we want him to be happy.  But, we all know that life is never that simple and that we all face struggles and challenges.  We don’t want Donovan’s life to be free from hardship, because it is in those moments that he will grow and become the man we hope he will be.  But, it won’t make watching him struggle any easier. In those moments our hearts will hurt and we will want to protect him, but we know that it is just part of life.

In the meantime, we look forward to the many ways that watching Donovan grow up will bring us joy.  And, at the same time, we will be thankful for each day that we have with our little guy.  We certainly can wait to see what is to come, because we know that he will be all grown up way faster than we care to admit.

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With Love,

From Me to You