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:



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).



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.


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.


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



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!



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.


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!



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.



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.


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.



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.



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,


Back at the Blog

Somehow this little blog is about to turn two! And, it is about time that I get back at it.  I’ve been debating about the direction of this blog.  The original intention was to share photos and stories with family and friends who live far away and want to keep up with our growing boys and our lives.  While I like sharing and love hearing that people enjoy the photos and stories, it does take a bit of time and energy.

Like I said, life has changed a lot since my last post in my second trimester.  Camdon was born and life has been a whirlwind.  We expected life to be more work with two children and we expected that priorities would shift for a bit. I feel incredibly fortunate to have enjoyed a lot of time at home with my new little guy.  I know that many women do not have this luxury and I am deeply grateful for the ability to do so.  I am thankful for my exceptionally supportive husband, who has given me the time and space to focus on my role as a mom.  And, I am always mindful of the flexibility our business has allow us.  Returning to work has been an interesting balancing act. Doug and I talk about work all the time, so while I might not physically be in the office or out in the field everyday, I still know what is going on and can work on projects from home or with clients in  a way that works with our family’s schedule.

Donovan’s first seven months were total chaos.  Looking back, I just laugh to myself as I remember how much we did.  As if becoming new parents was not enough, I job searched and accepted a new job. We traveled to Alaska. we moved to Florida. I started working full-time (and commuting to work for the first time in 3 years…living on campus had its perks!). I was pumping five days a week.  Doug was restarting his real estate business and learning a new area.  We bought and moved into our first home!  We were out of our ever-loving minds.  Only now, as I look back, do I really realize how chaotic it all was!  But, it was what we had to do and we did it.  Life seemed hectic and frenzied at the time but somehow, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Camdon’s first seven months have been the exact opposite.  We had a nursery ready for his arrival. Our house is thoroughly kid-proof and most of our projects and to-do lists were accomplished before he was born.  We knew what to expect.  We had been through the new baby transition before. We knew what to do.  We knew our resources.  Our family was close by and were an amazing support!  We planned for time as a new family and what work would look like.  We only planned one big trip to Wisconsin to celebrate two wonderful women who both turned 90!

With any new baby, life was filled with lots of highs and simultaneously, plenty of lows.  Taking care of two children at one time is no joke!  And nursing is freaking hard at the beginning, even if you have done it before.  Also, nursing a baby and keeping a two-year-old happy and safe is not an easy task.  Amidst the daily struggles and growing pains, so many special moments occur. I knew they would all fly by before my very eyes, so I worked extra hard to just be present.  To be in the moment as much as possible and to remember as many details as I could.  And, even with that mindfulness, I still sit here typing and wondering how seven months has really passed by.

So, I’m going to catch you up on the months that have passed.  I think I left off in October of 2015…so I might shorten some of the stories and there will be fewer pictures.  I think I’ll add a few more blogs about life.  Not just what we do, but some reflections on what is on my mind.  And, you might see more about work on here because work and our life is pretty intertwined.  As always, I’d love to hear what you think.

Here are few pictures of the boys in the cutest shirts from Auntie Yaya!



With Love,

From Me to You

May 2015

Good-Bye USF

My last day at USF was May 1st.  It was strange leaving a job that I had only been in for less than a year.  I had no regrets leaving and I was looking forward to my new career in real estate and more time at home with my little man.

I greatly miss my co-worker, Melissa, who taught me how to be an advisor.  How to ask the right questions and know what students really mean by their questions.  She is such a dedicated and hard working woman.  I am thankful that she was there to show me the ropes and keep me from losing it when I was frustrated or down.

I was most happy to say good-by to my breast pump.  Three times a day was getting old, but Donovan wasn’t ready to wean.  I gave up a lot of opportunities to connect with colleagues and friends so that I could pump during my lunch.  I also learned that it is ok, and frankly, good to take breaks during the day.  It helps you refocus and turn your attention back to your work with a fresh mind.  I was so thankful for a job that allowed me the flexibility to pump and that Donovan and I were able to keep our nursing relationship going.


Rachel arrived home from FSU that same night, so obviously, some Champagne was in order!


Rachel Turned 21

Cinco de Mayo might be the best date to turn 21.  It certainly is a special day in our lives as it is Rachie’s birthday.  We celebrated at Don Pablos for dinner and toured the Village for Rachel’s first LEGAL night out.  Look out world, all of the Schwartz sisters are legal!  In other news, I am old.  10pm was WAY too late for me to be out.  But, we were happy to celebrate Rachel’s milestone 🙂



Summer fun!

We enjoyed an awesome beach day with the Motley’s.  We also stepped up our beach game by purchasing a pop-up tent to keep the little ones in the shade.  Also, Donovan likes to eat sand…








Mother’s Day is one of my new favorite holidays as it is a reminder of how much I love my new role as a mom.  I never knew that I could be so thankful for my little guy or how much he would change me.  I also find myself appreciating my own mother in new ways.  She has taught me more than I will ever know and she has helped me in more ways than I can count.  Being a mom is a tough job and one that doesn’t always get the thanks that it deserves.  But, it is the best and I am thankful  to have the best mom around!







During the riots in Baltimore, the Rays hosted an extra game with general admission for all.  We got a big group together and enjoyed the Sunday game!  The Rays won!



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Donovan the Toddler

It seems that since Donovan turned one, he has grown and changed so quickly.  He loves practicing animal sounds and he has quite the repertoire already.  He still loves reading books, but now he likes to try to read them to himself.




He has always loved exploring, but now he is into everything and he cannot be contained.  Every ordinary object is now a new toy yet to be discovered.  And, have I mentioned that he loves to climb on everything?!?



As much as I see him growing up into a big guy before my eyes, he still needs his Momma.  Especially when he is sick 😦  He is loving the extra time with me at home!


Adjusting to the new job

It is strange to wake up one day with a whole new schedule and set of priorities.  I no longer turn into a crabby person on Sundays nights as I scramble to get the chores done and the family ready for the new week.  I still have responsibilities and things to do, but now I have time to do them and I’m not up against a stressful and dreaded Monday deadline.

It is nice to drive with Doug to work and to drop off Donovan for only three half days of daycare.  I wasn’t easy learning the ropes of a new job, but Doug is a patient and amazing teacher.  He puts up with my lack of knowledge and encourages me to work on projects that utilize the strengths that I bring to our team.

Working from home is not as easy as it seems.  There are distractions everywhere.  And, mostly, it is the cute little boy who needs me.  I try to be as productive as possible, but sometimes, work has to wait.


One of the many perks of working with you spouse are lunch dates.  With Donovan at daycare, we can find time to eat and catch up.  We talk about work a lot more than we did before, but we also find time to check-in and support each other.



With the new job, comes flexibility.  It is so nice to plan a vacation without needing to check with someone or request time off.  We headed to Wisconsin to visit family and celebrate the wedding of Doug’s cousin.

Donovan had a great time on the plane!




We spent time with Grandma Kimmy and we really enjoyed the Milwaukee zoo!





We saw Great-Grandma Irene and Uncle Terry for dinner.


We arrived at the DeGroot house and Cathy hosted Ed’s birthday and invited Doug’s childhood buddies and their families over for a fun day.  It is fun to see how their children grow!



We traveled to Antigo, Wisconsin to celebrate the wedding with the DeGroot family.  The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a blast.  Such great time with family!








We headed back to Milwaukee for a Memorial Day BBQ at Grandma Kimmy’s house.  The weather was perfect!  And, we enjoyed some quality time with Brian and Pip and their sweet children.  We wish we lived closer to them!




Our trip was a busy one, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world!  It was perfect seeing so many special family and friends and getting to do so much, too!

With Love,

From Me to You

April 2015

Donovan’s birthday came and went and before we knew it, we had a one-year-old!  Allison and Rachel both traveled to be able to celebrate Donovan’s big day.  It was special having family together to enjoy some quality time together.  Naturally, we had to share with them our favorite spring time treat!



Allison helped Donovan break in his new water table and we made our first batch of home-made ice cream with Doug’s new ice cream maker!



The decorations from the party did not come down right away.  It was due to a combination of being busy and not wanting to acknowledge that Donovan was a one-year-old 😉 Donovan enjoyed playing with his many new toys, but somehow the balloons were his favorite.



Easter sneaked up on us quickly.  We spent Good Friday at mass and then hosted a meat-less night of Catan fun with friends.


We headed to Sarasota for an Easter dinner on Saturday night.  This was the first time that we met Leah’s new boyfriend, John.  He did pretty well with all of our questions and, luckily, he seemed to like us too!  We went to a very interesting Easter Vigil mass, which resulted in lots of muffled laughing.  Donovan did not have the energy to make it through the whole mass, so we headed home to put him to bed.



Donovan hunted for Easter eggs in the morning.  He was very entertained by opening all of the eggs and attempting to put then back together.  His Easter basket was filled with beach toys, sandals, bubbles, and sunglasses.





Mom and Dad were headed back to Virginia for Spring break so we dropped them off at airport on our way home.



In January, I started studying to earn my Real Estate licence.  I took an on-line course because it provided more flexibility for my schedule.  It took a lot of discipline as I was adding another thing to my already maxed out schedule.  It took me a while to even consider getting my license.  Going back to work after Donovan was born was much harder than I imagined.  My job at USF was not as flexible as my job at Davidson had been.  Commuting, pumping, and putting Donovan in full-time daycare was such a drain and everyday I wondered if it was really worth it.  I knew that Donovan would grow up faster than I could imagine and I worried that I would miss it all because of my desire to work full-time. To make it all worse, it never really enjoyed my new job.  I felt like I was on auto-pilot and I didn’t feel that I was using any of my strengths.  It just felt like an empty job.  Don’t get me wrong, there were good things, but when I compared what I gained with what I was missing, it just wasn’t worth it.

I passed my class and the state exam mid-April.  It was such a relief.  The material was so different from anything I had studied in my education courses in undergrad or grad school.  I constantly doubted whether or not I would pass this test, because after all, lots of people do not pass.  I studied my behind off for the tests.  I probably studied hard for this test than I did for any other test in my life.  The weeks leading up to the test consisted of me sitting at the dinning room table taking tons of practice tests.  Doug was amazing.  He made dinners, handled bath time, and had wine on hand for those nights that I knew would be much later than I had hoped.  He was my rock and I would not have passed without his support.  He helped me practice questions that I had missed, he helped me stop over analyzing questions that I knew the answer to, and he was there to tell me that he believed in me and that I would pass this test.


Once I passed my exam, I way able to put in my two weeks notice.  I felt such a sense of relief as I finished out my last weeks!

Donovan was very excited to have more time with his Momma!  He even came with us to the office to sign my paperwork with Keller Williams!
Donovan was very excited to have more time with his Momma! He even came with us to the office to sign my paperwork with Keller Williams!

Doug and I went back and forth about when to get Donovan’s first haircut.  His first birthday seemed like a natural and logical event to mark his first haircut.  But, I just did not want to do it.  I guess it was letting go of Donovan as a baby.  He had the sweetest curls.  However, it was getting long and straggly so it was time to take the big step.  He did pretty well.  The key was distraction and quick movements.  Soon I realized that my concerns were purely sentimental because Donovan looked ever more adorable with his big boy haircut!




Here are a few pictures of Donovan just being cute 🙂

Not impressed by dinner..
Not impressed by dinner..
First Publix cookie!
First Publix cookie!
Fun at the zoo!
Fun at the zoo!
Working on Mother's Day gifts...we might have made a huge mess :)
Working on Mother’s Day gifts…we might have made a huge mess 🙂

With Love,

From Me to You

Donovan: Month Twelve

March is a big birthday month in the DeGroot household.  Doug turned 34 and we celebrated by watching some spring training baseball!  Doug finally got his grill and, of course, we enjoyed our favorite strawberry shortcake.








Donovan's first Chocolate chip cookie.
Donovan’s first Chocolate chip cookie.

We celebrated St. Patrick’s day with an Irish dinner with the Mitchells, Sweeney’s and Schwartzes:



We cheered on Leah and Becky in the Sarasota Half-Marathon:




And just like that, Donovan’s first year came to an end.  When I took his 11 month pictures I felt an impending sense that this ending had completely blindsided me.  How had time flown by so fast?  I knew that I had cherished every moment, but still, I found myself wondering where the time went.

The first year was a roller coaster of emotions. Watching Donovan grow was a gift unlike any other.  And as time passed I look forward to the new experiences to come.  But I also couldn’t help but long for those moments that had already passed.  Packing away outgrown clothes, reaching new milestones, and looking at old pictures served as reminders of how much had changed.

Even though he is a bit too big for this seat, it still worked when I needed to take a shower.

There was something about the end of the first year that made me even more sentimental.  I was hyper-aware of the last time Donovan would take a bath as a baby, the last time I would tuck Donovan in as a baby, the last time I would read Donovan “Fox in Socks” as a baby.  It seems silly looking back now, but at the time it just felt like a momentous ending.

At least Donovan still likes to be worn 🙂


As his birthday drew closer, we started getting lots of fun gifts in the mail:

A new chair from Grandma Kimmy!
A new chair from Grandma Kimmy!
A train from Grandma and Grandpa DeGroot.
A train from Grandma and Grandpa DeGroot.
And he started making a list for his thank-you notes!
And he started making a list for his thank-you notes!

And on March 26th, I put Donovan to sleep for the last time my little baby.


With Love,

From Me to You

Donovan: Month Seven

October was a pretty calm month.  We spent most of our time getting settled in our house. It felt nice to finally unpack some boxes that had never been unpacked from our wedding!

Donovan likes to eat his crib...
Donovan likes to eat his crib…
or play with toys...
or play with toys…
We moved him into the bath tub!
We moved him into the bath tub!
We needed the "baby jail"!
We needed the “baby jail”!
So cute :)
So cute 🙂

We had a horrible stomach bug and we had a few lazy days recovering.  Donovan had more sinus issues and we started to get used to handling the sickness.

At the doctor again...
At the doctor again…
My little sick guy.
My little sick guy.

We took an impromptu trip to Tally for the FSU vs. Notre Dame game.  Thankfully FSU won 🙂  And Donovan got to experience the best University ever!

Donovan and Auntie Rach!
Donovan and Auntie Rach!
Go Noles!
Go Noles!
with Gigi!




Cousin Becky!
Cousin Becky!
That purse looks good on him :)
That purse looks good on him 🙂

We enjoyed lots of time with family and friends!

Evey Motley’s 1st birthday!


Donovan meets Natalie and Vinny!
Donovan meets Natalie and Vinny!








First walk in out neighborhood!
First walk in our neighborhood!


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We cheered on Leah and Becky in the Chicago Marathon!



We went to a pumpkin patch to get ready for Donovan’s first Halloween!



Donovan started eating more solids.  He loved avocados 🙂


And we moved just in time for Donovan to start crawling 🙂


IMG_5909Seven Month Pictures

He wasn’t feeling too great and he officially boycotted the laying down photo.







With Love,

From Me to You

Donovan: Month Five


This was the dreaded month that Donovan started daycare.  Don’t get me wrong, we found a great daycare and they take great care of him, but it is just hard.  Luckily they have a camera that allows me to watch him all day.  That is, when I’m not working 🙂  And I am so thankful that Doug was able to do most of the dropping off.  There is no better way to ruin a day then to drop your child off at daycare.  I would cry the whole way to work.

There are some great things about daycare.  Donovan gets to interact with other children his age and they always send home the sweetest crafts.  And many of the staff members are moms as well.  Many of them love babywearing so I know that he gets lots of snuggles during the day.

Waiting to move

We were SO ready to move…we were done with stairs and the longs drive.  We were ready to unpack our boxes (for good…or at least longer than a year) and get settled in our very own house.

Finding a Routine

This month was a little bit calmer as we started to get into a routine.  I had my morning and evening commutes down to a science, I was getting used to waking up at 5 am, and I knew exactly what I needed to do in the first 15 minutes when I got home so that I wouldn’t be too tired to make my lunch.  Even as life seemed to be getting more regular, I still wondered how other people did this.  As much as I could manage to shower daily and look presentable at each day, I knew that things still needed work.

Working out, for example, used to be a necessity for each day.  Now, I would be lucky to go up and down the stairs a few extra times.  I didn’t want to leave Donovan when I got home and I physically could not get up any earlier.  Also, breastfeeding and sports bras…that’s enough on that topic 🙂  Doug and I took lots of walks along the water and I did a little running with Stella, but nothing consistent.

How do people work, raise their children, breastfeed, workout, make dinner, spend quality time with their partner, and prepare for the next day?  And don’t forget about those house chores, bills, and other projects that we all have to attend to.  As much as I was feeling more confident in my parenting, I still felt like I would never be able to balance it all.  I had to remind myself that it would take time and that I was being way too hard on myself.

In the midst of survival mode, I had to remember to savor every moment of every day with my little guy.  Everyone constantly reminds you (as if you could forget) that time would fly by so fast.  And, yet I found myself caught in between the hope that I could get through it all and the desire to to slow down the moments with Donovan. In those moments of feeling less than perfect, I had to remind myself that there was nothing greater than being a mom and that my little guy made it all worth it.

Tummy time while Daddy does push ups!
Tummy time while Daddy does push ups!
Donovan meets Dylan!
Donovan meets Dylan!
Ready for football!
Ready for football!
The chaos of our tiny rental...
The chaos of our tiny rental…
Shopping for furniture.
Lunch with GiGi and Grand-dad!
Lunch with GiGi and Grand-dad!


Donovan meets Becky!
Donovan meets Becky!

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Sleepy guy in the Solly Wrap!
Sleepy guy in the Solly Wrap!
Happy First Birthday, Drew!
Happy First Birthday, Drew!
Happy third Birthday, Stella!!
Happy third Birthday, Stella!!

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Somebody doesn't want to sleep...
Somebody doesn’t want to sleep…
I love to smooch those cheeks!
I love to smooch those cheeks!
A future Van-go :)
A future Van-go 🙂

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Five Month Photos

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Family :)
Family 🙂

With Love,

From Me to You