Hi Everyone! A belated MERRY CHRISTMAS and now HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I took an unofficial hiatus from blogging for the past few weeks, and I'm happy to say it was much needed and wisely used. Less time on computer = more time with hubby. I think we can all agree that is a great trade. I also noticed that my writers block was bigger than ever, I just needed to take a step back and see where it took me. Well, I'm back :) What can I say, I missed you!

I'm finally sitting down, for what seems like the first time in weeks, and let me tell you - it's amazing. I miss just writing and sharing and reading other people's blogs. I didn't realize this as much as when I wasn't doing it. There's so much to share and catch up on, so I'll start with the most obvious: Christmas!

I am just quickly popping in to share some of the holiday parties from the past few weeks. The holidays are such a mix of excitement and exhaustion, don't you think? I thought this would stop once we moved back to Michigan, since we would "have more time." Yeah, that hasn't happened. Almost the opposite actually. As wonderful as the holiday season is, I need a few days to just be at our home, sleep in our own bed and sink back into everyday life. If are you are currently picturing me in slippers, sipping tea, you have an accurate representation of my "recovery" time :)

I attend a women's bible study every Monday, so Shirley, our leader, hosted a wonderful holiday party for us...where we all just played with baby Alex :) He's the only male welcome.

A few days later, I hosted the "2nd Annual Christmas and Cookies" party. Pretty much an excuse for some girlfriends to get together, exchange gifts and taste test way too many cookies. Last year I made some mint chocolate truffles, and this year I stole this recipe. Would highly recommend!

We also had my work party that week...and of all people, Kyle ended up wining the bowling tournament. We spent a few days up at the cabin mixed in there somewhere, but I'll share more on that this week.. let's skip forward to more Christmas' and gatherings.

Annual dinner with Kyle's hometown crew:
We made a special trip to the west side and it was well worth the big hugs and time to just catch up.

We had Christmas at my mom's, at our home, at my in-law's, then with my dad's family. Christmas really did last an entire week :)

Hannah was enough entertainment for everyone. My goodness, she's so so big and so smart. We just watched her open gifts and use her imagination for hours.

Hannah loved making a gingerbread house. Aka, sneaking as much gumdrops as possible into her mouth, and happily smearing frosting on her hands only to lick it off. I think it's her new favorite Christmas tradition! Caught red handed:

Somehow we managed the whole week with no pictures of just Kyle and I. Maybe one on New Year's Day will suffice.

Hope each of you had a very merry Christmas!

It took three years and a lot of convincing, but guess what? We finally have a REAL tree standing in our home! (well, at least I hope it's still standing!).

When we lived in Virginia, we had a fake tree because we would travel for two weeks over the holidays, making it nearly impossible to keep a poor tree alive. Last year, I succumbed to using our fake tree again, since Kyle didn't have any time off on the weekends for us to cut one down together. Well, times are a changing!
On our fourth Christmas as husband and wife, this wife finally got her wish! We ventured out on Sunday afternoon to find the perfect tree. There is a great tree farm right around the corner from our home, so within one minute we were at the farm waiting for a wagon and handsaw. A huge smile plastered clear across my face.

Maizy took the lead to look for our families tree. We realized we are way more picky than necessary when it came to picking a tree. I wanted a spruce because I grew up with them, and love the smell! Kyle just wanted some dimension.

One hour and numb fingers later, we were still wandering around the farm. Finally, we found our tree! The heavens opened and I swear I heard music. (Although that music was me belting out Mariah Carey Christmas carols.)

I have this problem with perception that my contacts have not been able to completely fix. I get nervous passing semi trucks on the highway because they appear much closer to my right side than they actually are. We picked this tree and I was POSITIVE it was going to be short, since our living room has cathedral ceilings.

Not only is it scratching the ceiling (the ceiling is slanted to a peak, so we just need to move the tree a little into the living room and it wouldn't be kissing the ceiling anymore), but this thing is huge compared to what it looked like at the farm. Kyle's perception isn't off, so he was quite positive it would be a big tree for the space.
Doesn't matter, it's perfect!

It was also a wee too large for the tree stand we purchased. But, we were both too tired and lazy to go return it and buy another one. Nothing that fishing line and a nail can't fix.

Oh, and (almost) most importantly, the kind! We just liked the tree, cut it down and never thought about the kind until we checked out. We were too excited that we had finally found one! The owner told us it was a Concolor Spruce...aka my new favorite tree of all time.
It's so, so soft and smells like oranges. Seriously, my hands have smelled like oranges since Sunday. I kind of love it. The only downside is it's so soft that it is difficult to hang any heavy ornaments on the outside limbs.

It's wonderful. It's marvelous. It's ours.
Can you tell I'm just leaping with joy for our first real tree?

Does your family do real or fake trees?! Although the sweeping up of the tree has been a tad annoying, I *think* I've sold Kyle on going real from here on out - that is, if it stays standing until the New Year.

Do you have "fun days?"
I'm a very big fan.
In college, it was Sunday Fun Day - best day of the week! That carried into our life after the laid back college days, right into Kyle's medical school and my career. Each Sunday we had fun day traditions, and they were wonderful.
Two years ago, Kyle and I implemented "VK Family Fun Day" with his family. Result? Success. We did a movie, bowling, dinner and ended the night with a card tournament. It's a holiday tradition now.

So, while sitting at work in our weekly meeting, the group was discussing options for celebrating the holidays. After many ideas were thrown around - annual holiday party, going to a bar, secret santa, etc, it came down to one thing we all agreed on: FUN DAY!

But, let's back up a moment.

We are all very competitive. A group of Type A personalities. Take, for example, Halloween. Each year, there is a "friendly" competition among departments for the best Halloween costumes. This year, one coworker coordinated our entire office and forced us to dress up as Wizard of Oz.
See below.

Pretty sweet, right?
We lost to minions (as if that was original or creative)  Let me just tell you, we all left before the group picture. Our walk back to the office involved everyone plotting on how to win next year. Take that experience, apply it to "Office Holiday Fun Day", and you may get a bit nervous.

Me too.

We have brackets.
We are drawing names.
There is a scoreboard.
We will be trading players.
I'm secretly hoping we get team shirts for the bowling finale.

Beginning this week, and culminating in an entire day of games closer to Christmas, it's on. Like donky kong. I'm just praying we all remember the "holiday spirit." If Halloween is any indication of what is to come, no one is going down without a fight.

Last past week, we had three different Thanksgiving celebrations. It's a holiday miracle that Kyle and I were able to attend all of them together! We ventured to Kyle's aunt's for an early Christmas/Thanksgiving party, we hosted our first Thanksgiving with both of our families, and two days later celebrated with my mom and her husband's family. Whew. It was a big whirlwind of turkey and cranberries... and pumpkin pie and prime rib and ham and tenderloin and potatoes and squash and...you get the point.

I'm ashamed to admit that while hosting, I never took out my camera. I was too busy organizing and socializing and coloring mermaids with the kids. Now, I'm rather bummed that I didn't document our first Thanksgiving adventure at the house (minus last year's sitting on moving boxes), but at least we have a few from the trusty iphone. Just picture a lot of running around, screams in the background for the Lions game, and more food than any human could possibility consume. We've finally made a good dent in the leftovers in our refrigerator. Good thing, because I think my body is beginning to retaliate...no.more.turkey.

The only people missing from our celebration were my sister-in-law, who had to work and my step-mom, who was soaking up the sun in Florida. But, my sister from NYC was in town, Kyle's sis from Colorado and everyone else made a safe drive across the state. We realized that this was the first time since our wedding that the majority of both sides of our families were together. Certainly a complete a holiday!

And the turkey?! Happy to report that that baby turned out marvelous - it's not nearly has difficult as I always assumed it would be. Actually, it's quite easy just looking over Kyle's shoulder, giving my opinion and taste testing throughout the day :)

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Good Morning, friends!
and Happy, Happy {belated} Thanksgiving...and almost Merry Christmas!

Aah, nothing better than this time of year!
If you are stopping by from Medical Mondays, hello and welcome!

As the holidays are quickly approaching, I thought it'd be fun to talk about the medical profession + the holidays. What are some of your experiences?
Sometimes this can be more of a downer, since it can relate to holidays = spouse working = alone on Christmas. That sounds like every Hallmark movie ever made, except most of the time "I'll be home for Christmas," isn't playing in the background when your spouse comes home dragging their feet in from a 30 hour shift. Maybe I'll just sing it this year for the full effect.

For those of you currently enduring residency, have you ever noticed that whatever you are going through in life, residency has a way of bringing you back around? It's no doubt a tool that God has really used to humble us, and just keep bringing us back to Him. The same principal has proved true when it comes to the holiday schedule and recognizing a reality that I sometimes try to squeeze out of my line of vision. I'll explain...

When we moved for Kyle's residency, everyone told me to get ready to celebrate all of the holidays alone. How depressing, I thought. I'm a holiday girl to the core, I love everything about them, so thinking of not being able to spend it with my family was daunting, and frankly, just sad. What do you mean I can't kiss my hubby when the ball drops at 12 am?!!
We chatted about how we could make it work; maybe celebrate a few days later, get up really early, have turkey at the hospital or drive up to my parents to just be with family Christmas morning. Each holiday is so special to me, and I felt like I was giving up so much at just the thought of not being able to spend it with my spouse.

Then, I stepped back and thought about why doctors have to work on holidays in the first place. (That line of sight that is so easy to block out in the midst of residency...) There are people who are so sick, spending the holidays lying in a hospital bed, wondering if they will ever walk or speak again. There are young babies fighting for their lives and parents praying for one more holiday to spend with them. There are cancer patients receiving treatment on Christmas morning, fighting day by day.

If that isn't humbling, I'm not sure what is.

In light of the circumstances that many have to endure, missing a holiday or forming a few tradition of turkey in the cafeteria isn't so bad. In fact, it's quiet a blessing.

P.S. If you happen to find yourself in the hospital this season due to a cutting of a Christmas tree disaster, or burning of the ham, give your doctor and nurse an extra hug and a thank you. I think they deserve it.

P.S.S. There are plenty of people in the hospital who won't have loved ones around at Christmas time, if you aren't doing anything, maybe you could go make a new friend.

After sharing on Monday how it's time for me to rest,  wouldn't ya know it - I've been forced to.

I can't track down where I got this awful bug, but it came in full vengeance. The lovely runny nose, swollen throat, body aches,  headache, and best of all - that attractive manly voice. Typically I only get that late at night when I'm exhausted. The only great part of being sick is the endless amount of coconut popsicles and hot tea that I get to consume. You'll never find me complaining about coconut popsicles. OH, and wearing slippers all day long. <--- AMAZING.
I'm finding the silver lining here. 

On another note that has nothing to do with lounging around and blowing my nose all day...

Two weekend ago, we had some visitors - who happen to be some of our favorite people. 
We aren't biased or anything, we just think our niece is about the best thing since sliced bread.

While here, my sister-in-law, brother and I went to the UM vs. Nebraska football game to cheer on our poor team. Emily happens to be from Nebraska, so she wore red and we sat in the visitors section of the stadium. Points for being good family members.
Thankfully, I have nothing but good things to say about the Nebraska fans - they are actually quite nice (as if that should be a surprise?!). I think there was a common consensus that both of our teams are pretty awful this year, so neither one of us could be upset at the other. Football can be a mean game people. Just wait until Ohio State comes to town next week. Yikes.

Okay, now I'm babbling. Can you tell I've been cooped up in the house all day?
Just Maizy and I, hanging out. I think she's a bit frustrated at my lack of playing with her while I'm home. I keep getting legit puppy eyes.

One last thing as I wrap up- Hannah just turned two, and of course that means a photo session. Documenting these years is priceless and I love being able to do it. Seems surreal that just 24 months ago she was this petite newborn. Next thing you know she's going to be calling me because she has a crush.  Here's a few photos from a 2 year old who knows how to work the camera.

Happy Weekending!

Big blue eyes. Pouty lips. Blonde curls.

Photographing young children is always a fun challenge. Their little personalities vary so much, it always keeps a photographer on their toes. Little Sophia was this shy little two year old, until we started playing in the leaves and climbing on benches. You didn't know that my job actually involves rolling in the dirt and playing pretend princess parties did you?
Yah, it's pretty fun.

Last week, I ate catered food everyday, spent each night in a hotel room, lived out of a suitcase and used crappy shampoo (hate crappy shampoo!). I'm quite fond of traveling, even when it is for work - but being home with my family trumps exploring new cities. Especially when it's on the cusp of what I would deem as one of the most difficult seasons of my life.

Believe it or not, this past weekend was the first in almost three months that Kyle and I were home, together, without either of us working. How sad is it that I can't remember the last time we got to sleep in together on a Saturday morning?
I'm allowing myself to have some self pity because truthfully, I'm just tired. No coffee can replace the need for rest that I'm yearning for. I'm not referring to sleep (the hotel bed was quite comfy if I could say so myself), but just rest - waking up without a to-do list a mile long, a day without working  either job, time to sit in my reading nook with hot cinnamon spice tea and slippers, time to just be.
When's the last time you were able to do that? Mine, I cannot currently recall. (That may also be because my brain is a pile of mush.)

I'm wallowing because I finally hit the wall.
I'm wallowing because I feel the guilt from making myself go, go, go only to find myself sitting here desiring anything but.
I'm wallowing because my strength is insufficient, and I know it.
I have no excuses. I do this to myself. I'm a busy body to the core, and obviously, to a fault.

My busy becomes my excuse to not deal.

I'm assured that you have each been here at some point, if not right now, maybe last month or last year. When life becomes one to-do list to the next, with little time left for quality time, when plans have to continually get cancelled because as much as you wish you had the time, you simply don't. When life unexpectedly takes turns you never anticipated and you're left with more questions than answers- those times. The ones I would most categorize as the the times I've lost sight, questioned my faith, battled with the devil. When a busy schedule collides with situations out of your control, and there you stand- helpless. That's where I've been, in the middle of that battleground.

Kyle and I had a long conversation over breakfast at our favorite little cafe on Saturday morning: Where do we stop? What has to give in life to make life more enjoyable, less stressful, and frankly, less exhausting? When will I stopping pushing myself to to the point of failure? Why is it so easy to lose sight? The never ending question- how do we find balance?
We tossed around a lot of scenarios and ideas over pumpkin pancakes and coffee.
But two things were constant: Prayer and rest.

Then came Sunday morning, and I sat in the church pew with my husband by my side. A scene straight out of my dreams these days. And the pastor talked about patience. We both needed to hear it, and truthfully, it stung a little bit.

Two themes repeated throughout the sermon: Prayer and rest.

Okay, then. I think it's pretty clear that God is gently telling me to sit my butt down.
To come to him in prayer because he's waiting. Patiently.

We have a saying at my work: "bright shiny thing!"
It's because we are all a tad ADD and Type A personalities. "Bright shiny thing," is the best way to explain my coping technique of hosting the holidays:

I love the holidays. Christmas music playing in the stores, red and green lining the streets, the crisp air giving us hope for a white Christmas, the anticipation of after-dinner Thanksgiving naps, the holiday season flavors at Starbucks. Oh, and let's not forget having an excuse to continually watch one of  the best movies ever, Elf.
Everything. I love it. If you see me during the next two months, there is a good chance I'll have a perma-smile just because happiness is in the air. Just makes my heart happy just thinking about the memories we form each year with our family and friends.

This year, we are hosting our first Thanksgiving at our home. Last year, we also had it at our home, but "hosting" may be a stretch. My brother (who happens to be a gourmet cook for fun) brought down every dish and we sat on boxes around our dining room table.  We had moved into our home the day before, so you can imagine the mess of trying to find plates and utensils to eat with. I even ended up putting peppermint extract instead of vanilla in our sweet potato casserole, but we ate it anyway (I have a gracious family)! Although a bit chaotic, it's one of our favorite memories.

This year, we have chairs to sit on and a TV to watch, so we are already in better shape :) (I've also purged the kitchen of peppermint extract so there will be no mistake made in the casserole department!)
We love hosting, but for some reason, a big holiday seems different than a baby shower or small dinner party. After putting together a nice google doc outlining the menu and attendees, my anxiety began to creep in a bit. To Pinterest I ran.
Oh but of course, Pinterest doesn't exactly ease tension, it simply provides distraction. Pretty distraction: "bright shiny things!"

I look at the images that come up and think, "we're going to have tons of kids running around, there's no way that decorated table will stay like that longer than 10 minutes." But, then, the  (potentially) impractical part of me goes into dream mode and my anxiety about cooking gets replaced by excitement in the details and display of foods. Nevermind the fact that the food needs to be made prior to displaying it.

Cute labels for foods. Chalkboard menus. Adorable baby pumpkins. Fancy Dessert displays. Fun cocktail drinks with pretty typography. and PIE POPS?! BRIGHT SHINY THINGS!!

Thankfully time is limited, so I can't pursue every pinterest-worthy idea. However, I'm confident our stomachs and hearts will be full regardless of if I can pull off finding blue plates just to display baby pumpkins on! (Not exactly saying that is going to stop me from trying ...)

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Any tricks of the trade you would like to share?

Happy Monday, Friends!
I'm wrapping up a busy Fall with amazing clients this week. It seems like Fall just flew by, considering there is snow currently gathering on the leaves that sit in our yard. The first snow means hot chocolate and slippers now until March :) For that reason alone, I'm excited!

Last weekend I ventured to Grand Rapids, MI to photograph two amazing people, who will be married in just two short months! The weather was amazing that day, full of color and sunshine. Although the colors may be gone for Brittany and Nate's wedding, I'm hoping for a winter wonderland!

I can't believe that this week, we will have been in our home for one year.
Not only is it much colder outside than it was this time last year, but the house looks 100% different than the day we got to call it ours.

In the past year, my appreciation for home renovations, painters, construction workers, installers and frankly anyone who knows how to properly use a table saw has skyrocketed. Through the roof. I'm thankful that everyone still has all fingers and toes, although all of the nails may be in question.

I look back and think, "what on earth were we thinking." But, then I look around at our beautiful home and I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness and pride that we did it. It has been quite the journey that felt much longer that it has actually been. We learned quickly that when we put our mind to something, get out the way..
(Maybe I should change that to when I...)

I have never sat down and constructed a complete list of what we have done, so it feels appopriate to make it on the one year anniversary. I had to walk through the entire house and think about what we had done- it seems like a big blur :) I happen to have a very selective memory, so I don't tend to remember how just how stressful or even fun it was, I just look at the end result and think it was worth it. Maybe that's why we have ambitious goals for year 2! Forced ignorance is still bliss people.

Year One "We Did It!" List

  • Paint: Every room, every closet, every ceiling 
  • Installed wood flooring (entryway, kitchen, dining room, living room)
  • Installed new carpet (bedrooms, hallway & stairs)
  • Retiled half bath and laundry room floors
  • Painted kitchen cabinets 
  • Installed new hardware 
  • Built and installed a kitchen island
  • Replaced countertops
  • Installed kitchen backsplash
  • Resurfaced entire fireplace
  • Replaced light fixtures in kitchen, living room, hallways, all bathrooms and entryway
  • Installed recessed lighting in dining room nook
  • Renovated the laundry room closet turned entryway nook
  • Painted exterior
  • Tore out all existing plantbeds 
  • Planted 60+ new plants & trees
  • Installed new exterior lighting and security system  
  • Installed a gas line in basement for kitchen appliances
  • Installed new kitchen appliances  

Year Two To-Do List

  • Clean out, organize and FINISH the basement!
  • Complete 1/2 bath: install new vanity and mirror
  • Redo our master bathroom
  • Re-paint office and construct built-ins
  • Paint all baseboards
  • Paint sunroom   

I think the reason I don't remember all of the stress, was because in the midst of being covered in dust and redoing trim five times- memories were formed. Because most of all, I look at that list and it draws forward all of these memories that I simply treasure.
Eating pizza on the subfloor surrounded by family, having friends visit in scrubs just to help paint a bedroom, late nights of pulling up nails from the old carpet, singing random oldies with my dad while convincing him I could balance on a ladder, installing the baseboards with my sister, celebrating Thanksgiving sitting on the recently-moved, unpacked boxes while we watched football from rabbit-ears we purchased at the only store in town open, attempting to install light fixtures with my sister-in-law, Kyle and I finishing our cabinets, hosting Christmas Eve with our families, the many trips to Lowe's where we became friends with the workers, growing our first garden, making friends with our neighbors, the first fire we built in our fireplace and the first cookout on our patio. The time we were rolling on the floor laughing because nothing seemed to be going right, and we were too tired to care anymore.
If this house has taught us (or reiterated) anything, it's that a house is simply that- wood, cement, drywall, and brick. A simple structure that is only made complete by the people within it. Those people, those relationships, the conversations it fosters and the warmth it gives, that's the list that matters.

Hi All :)

I know I'm a day late (seems to be the trend lately), but I love this week of the month specifically in the blogging world, thanks to Medical Mondays. So, I couldn't let this week slip away from me without stopping in to just wave and say Hello!

If you are in anyway connected to the medical world, link up or blog hop around to meet so many amazing people who blog about this bubble. I always find it encouraging, and I hope that you do too. You can link here.

I always feel pressure to come up with something super interesting or witty in honor of Medical Mondays. But, this week was very timely as I was recently working through organizing pictures from the past few years. And, of course- I came across many from exactly two years ago - aka, Interview Season!  I know that many of you may be switching pages from searching the internet or reading this blog in order to book flights for interviews - a feeling that is so fresh and familiar.

I have this distinct memory cemented into my mind of having 18 different tabs opened on my computer screen (I remember counting them in disbelief) as I went between my email, my husbands, every airline website, Google maps, car rental locations and various hotels within walking distance to hospitals. 4 hours later, I had three weeks worth of travel plans set. A perfect representation of the entire 3 months of interview season: chaos, confusion and the great unknown.

That season was the worst game of what-ifs I've ever played.

People gave us all sorts of advice during interview season, some better than others. But, the reality was we were in completely uncharted territory.
With only one and a half years of residency under our belts, interview season looks very different! Of course, it's easy for me to say because we are set in our place for residency. But, that feeling of uncertainty doesn't find itself too far removed. After all, in a few short years we will be repeating this glorious process for fellowship. ( <---- does this ever end?!)

If you are finding yourself deep in the trenches of interview season (or any big decision in life!), as the spouse, here's what I'd suggest to help ease the chaos and confusion that ensues:

Research, but don't obsess.

I'll openly admit that I spent way too much time on zillow.com. If a house was on the market in a town that we ranked, I knew about it. Seriously. Looking back, I think it was the one thing I could be prepared for, so I was (that planner in me!). I was a little obsessed with planning what I could, just trying to control something in a situation where control was completely out of our hands.
It is, however, necessary to research things such as the cost of living, locations, job opportunities, education opportunities, etc. The last thing you want is to not have a clue where you are moving to, only to discover there is little there for you. Kyle interviewed at one location (to be left nameless) and every person was married, had children and not one spouse worked. Partly it was the culture, but partly it was that there was no opportunity for people outside of the hospital. He liked the program, but it was obvious that it would be a challenge for me to thrive there.

If you are able, jump on the plane with your spouse and head to the interview. You'll most likely end up walking around a city by yourself a day, but you will start to get a feel for the area and culture. Better yet, you could network with potential employers or connect with old friends. Meet people who live there and ask them questions. Some of our favorite memories are the nights after interviews, sitting in a random restaurant in a new city, just taking it in and chatting about the future.

Ask Questions. A lot of questions.
As the spouse, things look a lot different for you than for your other half. Residency can be (and sometimes is) all-consuming, but programs vary across the country - drastically. Get an idea of what you're getting into at each location.

Does the program have a spouse/SO/family support group or network?
What benefits does the program offer? (Educational credits, cost of health care, extended sick leave, retirement packages, etc)
How far are the locations from grandma's house or your favorite vacation spot?
What is the cost of living? Can you afford rent and still eat?
What's the culture like? In the hospital and town.
What's the call schedule? At home or in-house? (<--- this makes a huge difference!)
Does the program seem to support healthy families and marriages? (This tends to be obvious within a few conversations with current residents)
Are there required meetings each week or month? (Trust me, with how much time your spouse/SO spends in the hospital, it's like twisting the knife to have them be there extra time for meetings! Is it obvious that this grinds my gears ;)
Is the resident required to do research? What does that actually mean? What's the time commitment, what are the research opportunities, is there time set aside for it, etc?
How much vacation time do they give residents each year?

Most of all, trust each other and communicate openly about your excitements and fears. There's no denying this a pivotal time and a lot of change is ahead. The best part? You're in it together!

Anyone else have advice for 4th years? I know I barely scratched the surface.
Happy Medical Mondays Week :)

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