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

LBD 2: First Trimester Re-cap

Due Date:

March 9, 2016 (Doug’s 35th birthday!!)

Sex:

Sorry, folks!  We loved waiting for the big surprise to be revealed at the delivery, so you will have to stay tuned until March.

How we found out:

Since Doug and I were trying to get pregnant, I was completely aware of every change that occurred in my body.  Since I was pregnant before, I was absolutely positive that I knew I was pregnant.  I think I surprised Doug with my certainty.

When you are trying to get pregnant, any time spent waiting is miserable.  You just want to know if you are pregnant or not.  Given my certainty, I opted to try the early detection pregnancy tests.  I took the first test on June 28th and it was negative.  Since I knew it was really early, and I was sure that I was in fact pregnant, I didn’t really think much of it.

On June 30th, as Doug was getting ready for a trip to Wisconsin, I took another early test.  This one had a faint line.  I began googling and reading discussion boards to see if I could take this as a good sign or if I had to wait longer.  We decided to be cautiously optimistic, yet celebrate that we had a new baby on the way.

On July 3rd as Doug returned, I took one more test.  This one had a full dark line, so we felt more confident in our exciting news.

Reactions:

Jenna-I knew I was right!

Doug-Yay!  LBD 2!

Donovan-Has no clue what is going on 🙂

Keeping the secret and Sharing the news:

This time around, we didn’t feel any rush to share our secret with anyone.  After having one child, you suddenly become a target for questions about when you will have the next one.  People observe when you drink and when you don’t and how you act or if you seem tired or sick.  It seemed that everyone was just looking for clues that I could be pregnant.  It was was a little bit obnoxious, so I felt more justified in holding on to the news a little longer.

We told my family first because they would be the most likely to figure out that I was pregnant.  While we were at Anna Maria Island, we had Donovan wear his “Big Brother” shirt and wait for my parents and sisters to notice.  They were all excited about the news and all admitted that they were suspicious that something was going on.

We shared the news with Doug’s family via FaceTime in a similar fashion.  Adam and Kristin took the longest to notice the shirt, but to be fair, they were also taking care of their new son, Simon.

Once our family knew, we started making calls to friends.  It was a great reason to catch up with people when you have exciting news to share.

We shared our big news with most of our family and friends at my parents Labor Day party.  We had taken a few pictures of Donovan and put them up on the TV.

Our Facebook announcement came the following weekend.

How I was feeling:

This time around the morning sickness was way worse.  I needed to eat as soon as I woke up and I always felt as if I could throw up at any moment.  I only wanted to eat carbs.  Frozen food was the only way that I could satisfy my urgency to eat immediately.  Snacking was critical to not feeling too sick all the time.  And, dinners, well, let’s just say that there was a lot of eating out and frozen meals.  I just could not bring myself to cook because then I would want nothing to do with what I had made.  I also adopted what I like to call, fourth meal.  As if the snacks didn’t add up to additional meals, this meal came after dinner.  If I missed fourth meal, then the night and the morning were extra nauseating.

No one warns you that having a toddler is a lot of work.  It is wonderful, and exhausting on a typical day.  Add in being pregnant and you reach a whole new level of fatigue.  This time around, I did not have the luxury of laying on my couch while watching mindless TV.  I still had to take care of my little guy who needed my attention and wanted me to play.  The silver lining was nap time.  I greatly appreciated snuggling with Donovan and taking long naps together.  The only problem was that I could have taken at least two more naps a day, but he wasn’t interested.

Doctors appointments:

The first few appointments are so exciting as you get that final confirmation that you are pregnant.  My new doctor does more ultrasounds that my doctor in North Carolina. So, we could see our little one growing.

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Our little blob at 8 weeks 
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Our growing LBD 2 at 12 weeks

Soon the excitement wears off a bit as I remembered how many doctors appointments there are and how much waiting you do for quick check ups.  And, I hate having my blood taken, even though I have gotten better.  It seems that your blood is needed way more frequently at the beginning to make sure that you and the baby are healthy.

First pregnancy and second pregnancy comparisons:

As I mentioned before, I completely underestimated how much work it would be taking care of Donovan and being pregnant.  I tried so hard to be fun and playful, but there were days that I was just not on my parenting game. I had to cut myself some slack and realize that I could get through this and I would feel better one day!

There was certainly less anxiety with this pregnancy than the first.  Since I had been through it all before, I knew what was coming next.  I didn’t need to read “What to Expect When You are Expecting” and I didn’t need to google every symptom.  I still had the first trimester worry that the baby would be health and that we would make it to the second trimester successfully, yet it wasn’t at the front of my mind because I was busy with LBD 1.

It is amazing how quickly you forget the misery of the first trimester when you decide to have a second child.  Since I felt worse this time, I found myself wondering how I forgot about this from before.  As a parent you learn to not wish time away because your child grows so quickly.  I felt a simultaneous urge to hope that I would feel better as soon as the second trimester began.

Doug and I did not anticipate to get pregnant so quickly.  We expected a few months of trying before we would have our intended outcome.  We are so thankful that we were blessed with such an smooth process.  The timing will put Donovan and the new baby at exactly two years apart.  I guess March was meant to be birthday month for the DeGroots 🙂

As I mentioned before, Doug and I were not in a rush to share our news.  It wasn’t that we were not excited, but more that maybe we were not ready to admit how much our lives were about to change.  We wanted to continue to enjoy our lives as our little family of three and not get too wrapped up in what was to come.  We knew there would be plenty of time for preparations once I started to feel better 🙂

I did start to wonder how I could love a child any more than I love Donovan.  I know that my love for him completely caught me off guard so I assume that the new love for LBD 2 will do the same.  But, I do worry about comparing the two.  What if I do love Donovan more?  And, how do parents of multiple children give their children all the love that they need?  It was easy with Donovan because he was the only one.  He has always been the focus and has received my full attention.  How do second children even come close to experiencing what the first received from their parents?  I’m sure that instead of dividing your love for two children, it will just grow.  For now, we are enjoying each day before everything changes in March 🙂

As you can see from the pictures below, this time around I opted to take my “bump” picture in whatever I was wearing that day, instead of wearing the same thing.  I also have a new little buddy joining me in each picture.  Stella voted to sit these weekly pictures out.  And, let me tell you, Stella was a much easier customer than Donovan.  It is fun to look back and see how Donovan has changed over the past few months.

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Week 6- July 16th
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Week 7- July 21st
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Week 8- July 28th
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Week 9- August 4th
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Week 10- August 11th
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Week 11- August 18th
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Week 12- August 25th

With Love,

From Me to You

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

Love Me Do

My parents have been, and still are, the shining example of what love should be.

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They make time for each other

They respect each other’s differences

They laugh

They support the other when life is not what they have expected

They are at their happiest when they are together

They make love look effortless.

My parents taught me about family and the unconditional love that must always be shared. They reminded me that family is the group of people who will always be there for you. I am lucky to have two younger sisters and as I grew up. I knew I loved them, even if they annoyed me or got in my way. As an adult they are two of my closest friends. Even though I am certain that I was not a perfect older sister, they found away to love me in spite of my shortcomings.

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When I met Doug, I thought that I had love all figured out. But this time, there was something different. I could feel it deep in my core.

There was something in how he made me feel.

He made me laugh.

He was genuine.

He made me feel at ease.

Of course, his deep blue eyes and warm smile helped, too 🙂

With any new love you get that tingling anxiety and prickly excitement every time they call or accidently graze your skin. You become so wrapped up in the newness and the thrill and you devour every moment together because they all pass by so quickly. You are learning about this new person and you have a million things to ask so you can feel that you really know them.

Eventually the rational side of your mind knocks on the door to remind you that all of these special feelings are just wonderful but we need to know if this guy really measures up. Is he really as good as he seems? And with that you begin to check off the items on the checklist that you have created over your dating history. You look for flaws and reasons to disqualify this new guy. This is where love comes in.

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Getting to know people takes time. It cannot be rushed. Love is what carries you to the next step and by that point, if you do find a flaw, doesn’t seem quite as important as before. Love smoothes out the wrinkles and allows you to accept people’s imperfections.  After all, we are all imperfect.

Loves grows. It changes with every season.

Dating

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Engaged

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Newlyweds

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Good times

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Hard times

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New beginning

Our first family photo :)

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With each stage love is there as the foundation.

Communication

Patience

Selflessness

Commitment

Honestly

Trust

These are what keep your relationship together and growing, but love is the backbone.

I thought I understood love.

I knew that when it was right, it would just work. Like it did for my parents and like it did when I met Doug. I knew that love took work and it would be there if you learned how to say “I’m sorry” and to work together. I knew that unconditional love is the easiest to take for granted. But the day that Donovan was born I learned about a new kind of love.

When you are planning to get pregnant you are thinking about a person that you don’t even know.

Hoping

Wishing

Praying

When you find out that you are pregnant, it becomes real. You watch your belly grown and you feel this life inside you move and turn. You might even name this little being. But…

You still don’t know this person.

The day your baby is born and you meet them for the first time, you are in love. The pain of labor and the frustration of pregnancy mean nothing because you are finally holding this special person. A tiny representation of you and your partner—a symbol of your love. And you are filled with more love than that you could ever imagine that your heart could hold. You never knew that your heart could feel so full.

As I held Donovan I could not believe that I loved him as much as I did, after all, I barely knew him. And at the same time, I was willing to do just about anything for him. I didn’t have to find his flaws or qualify whether or not he deserved my love. It was just there, overflowing unconditionally.

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As I watched Doug hold Donovan and share the same emotions, I couldn’t help but think that love is a funny thing. It is different in each relationship. It is hard to define. It makes people do incredible things.

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I reflect on love as Doug and I celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. Love has many shades and forms. And in some ways, love is a culmination of a lifetime of love shared with you by others. I am so thankful for the examples of love that have taught me life-lessons that I didn’t even know that I was learning. I am honored by the unconditional love of my family. I am grateful for the love that didn’t allow me to disqualify imperfection. And I am in awe of love that has come into my life and changed me for the better.

If it wasn’t for love my life would be different. Love will still change and it will continue to grow in new ways. Tonight I am just so thankful for all of the love that fills my life.

I love you, Doug. Thank you for loving me each day in spite of my imperfection. For always working together to make our relationship work. And, for the love that grows with our family. I couldn’t love Donovan as much as I do if it wasn’t for you. Happy Anniversary!

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With Love,

From me to you