Samuel is 10 weeks, and there has been so much that has happened since he was born, it seems like 10 years and the blink of an eye all at the same time.
We've had endless amounts of visitors, loaded up the car and road tripped multiple times, wandered around Target more times than I would like to admit, walked just about every trail in Ann Arbor and have sung Baby Beluga so many times that I don't remember adult music.


For only 10 weeks old, this little man has had quite the experiences. So have his mom and dad.

Here's my brain dump as I think about how much life has changed:

- Humility. Just when I think "oh, I got this," Sam throws me a curve ball. It never.fails.
- Singing Skills. I have Sam convinced that I'm a ridciulously good singer. I knew I loved this kid.
- It's amazing how often descriptions of your child's life resemble that of an animal. Poop, feed, sleep, poop, feed, sleep.
- "It's the simple things in life," has taken on a whole new meaning. Never did a small smile mean so darn much. My heart just explodes at the "oooosss" and "goo goos." Rolling over calls for loud cheers and grabbing my shirt makes me turn into a puddle of mush.
- Little man is growing at the speed of light. Packing away so many of his newborn clothes felt like I was already sending him off to college. Gulp.
- I now understand why so many mothers end up having short hair. Those little hands can do some damage.
- I'm the queen of over-committing. I take on too many projects and things all.the.time. It's some sort of disease, I swear. Then came along a small human. And I realized I can't do it all. Not even close.  I am *slowly* accepting that I do what I can, and that's enough.
- Who knew something so small would completely overall your life in the best way possible (sans the outrageous amount of dirty diapers)
- Mommy guilt is real.
- I've realized there is zero point to purchasing new clothing anytime between birth to (well..who knows when this body will get back to 'normal'). At this point, everything just shifts and changes daily. For a girl who hated leggings, I now live in them.
- I'm on a mission to figure out a way to get more pictures with my son. As much as I dislike selfies, I may need to resort to them.
- I now get extremely annoyed at bad drivers. I'm so close to getting a "baby on board" sticker plastered across my bumper. But I think the next step after that is a mini-van with capri-suns and orange slices, and I'm not emotionally there yet.
- The things that mean the most in life take the most effort. I've found this to be incredibly true with prioritizing your marriage while having a newborn.
- What not to do after you have a child: try to do everything. (lesson.learned.)
- What to do after having a child: accept people's help. Humbling and thankfully, without feeling guilty or as if you are failing.
- Those eyes. That is all.
- I forgot what it feels like to have empty hands. If I go to the store without Sam, I have at least three moments of "oh my gosh! where did I leave him?!"
- Breastfeeding is amazing...and yet makes me feel like a cow at the same time. The breast pump is the most horrifying machine known to man. I think the sound alone will haunt me for years to come.
- I find myself saying "use your words!!" way too often, with no understandable response.
- Seeing my boys together is hands-down the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. There's nothing like seeing your husband love your son. Puddle of mush I tell you, just a big puddle of mush.
- I had no idea the world I was entering when I became a mom...the momdom world (as I like to refer to it) is full of strong opinions and a little bit of crazies.
- Transitioning to a family of three (ahem, 4 if you ask Maizy), has been (and will continue to be )a huge adjustment. Yet at the same time, I don't remember life without the little one.
- When I place him in his crib and walk away, I'm always reminded that I won't always be able to protect him. Although I hope not to become one, I get the whole helicopter mom deal.
- My reliance on the Lord has multipled 1000x over.
- This is the most difficult job I've ever had (and I'd venture to say we haven't hit the hardest part yet)
- What did we ever do to receive this gift? Babies are miracles and mysteries.
- Everyday it feels like I'm opening a new gift. He changes so quickly.
- Time, grace, prayer, freedom to cry and ability to laugh (a lot) may just be the most necessary components to the emotions and reality of becoming a mom. Oh, and naps.













The past six weeks have been nothing short of incredible, even through the lack of sleep.
Just when I feel like I can't bounce him one more second or hold him without my arms falling off, little man looks up at me with his big blue eyes and every bit of me melts into one million little pieces. This sweet little soul has completely captured our hearts.

Parents always tell you that you don't understand a love like this until you hold your child. "Just wait," they'd say, with a smile that reveals they know something that you don't.
They're right.


Kyle and I have about one thousand pictures taking up residence on our phones, with each little thing he does. His baby book has been sitting on our dining room table, each small milestone being recorded so that we won't forget as the days quickly speed past. The first time he rolled over, smiled or his cry changed into this high-pitch scream. The days seem to be flying by.


This little one looks so different than the day we met. His cheeks have filled out to look like a little chipmunk, his lips beginning to mimic his dads, his dark blue eyes wider, his hair blonder, and his fingers, much, much chubbier.  
From his facial features to expressions, this life is sprouting before our very eyes. 


There's so much to share. Yet, as rice lands on my baby's head as I try to eat, his cheek pressed against my chest, cuddled up in his wrap and breathing hard from a deep sleep, my hair thrown back in a headband and shoulder covered in a bit of spit up...I'm just going to leave it here. In this moment of real life, it's not exactly glamorous, but goodness, is it beautiful.


PS. I'll be back with some non- iPhone pics of our boy...but for now, thanks for understanding the iPhone explosion. 



I was three days past my due date, and Kyle and I went into the doctors office with full expectation that they would require us to schedule an induction.
I had yet to have one contraction (that I knew of), and I was dilated only to 2, as I had been for two weeks. Walking, spicy food, and all of the other tricks did not seem to be working. My entire pregnancy, I was adamant about avoiding induction and not being medicated unless absolutely necessary. Of course, I was feeling a bit defeated entering this visit.

Samuel's birth was everything that I didn't think I wanted...
And it turned out absolutely perfect!

We left the doctors office on Wednesday, and headed home. Only this time, we drove home only to pick up our hospital bags, eat a hardy meal and head right back to the 9th floor. During my appointment, we discovered by membrane had been ruptured. Most likely for three days. Thus, an induction was necessary and in our immediate future.
I remember driving home, tears in my eyes, and scared out of my wits. Although I was so ready to meet our baby, all of the medical intervention had me fearful.  Just like throughout the pregnancy, I prayed that no matter what, the Lord's hand would be upon every possible detail.

It was.
Fully and completely. My eyes swell up just thinking about His faithfulness to us.

We walked into the hospital, checked into triage and waited. It was the strangest waiting period of our lives. We sat with our luggage next to us, knowing that the next day we would be holding our child.  Our first nurse greeted us with a huge smile and I immediately felt more at ease. She lead us to a room with a tub, as I had requested, and gave us the run down of where could find the popsicles and late night snacks.

Within two hours, I was dressed in a gown and slippers, with the pitocin running through my veins. Kyle and I passed the time by walking around the hallways of the 9th floor, perusing television shows and hanging out with our nurse.

Within two hours, I felt my first contraction. I looked at Kyle with such excitement, "that's what a contraction feels like!" For any mother currently reading this, you're probably thinking that my excitement didn't last too long. For that, you would be correct. Pitocin greatly intensifies the strength and longevity of your contractions. One never knows how the body will react to it (and I had only heard the horror stories of having the medication), which is why I wanted to avoid it if possible.

Around 10 pm, my contractions increased from approximately 6-8 minutes apart to 2. I labored in the tub for almost two hours, with Kyle by my side. He was the best birth partner I could have asked for. Reminding me to breathe, relax, and massaging my back, we worked through every contraction with little break time to prepare for the next. It was this strange combination of beauty and pain. Those hours are one of my favorite memories of labor, despite how physically uncomfortable ( <-- understatement of the year) they were.

I was positive that I had dilated to at least 6 at this point, so I requested that the doctor come check. Low and behold, I was only at 3. THREE?!! Just a complete punch to the gut. The nurse and doctor gave me a lot of encouragement with a topping of reality. I was looking at another 6-8 hours of these 2-minute apart contractions. Typically, this strength would only be experienced during the transition phase of labor, not the entire labor. I mentioned to my nurse that this drug was inhumane.

Kyle looked me in the eyes, squeezed my hand and reassured me that it was my decision on how to move forward. We'll get through those hours naturally if I wanted. All I could think about was how tired I already was, and how I wanted to enjoy this experience and not suffer through it. I felt disappointed yet relieved at the same time.

The anesthesiologist team arrived 20 minutes later, and did the entire run through of what to expect. After another 40 minutes of contracting while attempting to remain as still as possible, the epidural was finished. Then we waited. The nurse encouraged me to sleep as much as possible through the night, but teams of workers kept coming into the room to check on this medicated body of mine.

That night went so quickly. I watched the clock as it was on the wall directly in front of me. Drinking water and chomping on ice cubes, I tried to sleep off all of the thoughts going through my mind. It simply didn't feel real that we'd welcome our child in a few short hours.
By 4 am, I was dilated to 6 and encouraged, yet again, to try and sleep. Kyle slept next to me on the sofa and I laid in bed, in and out of sleep...continuing to watch the hands on the clock move one hour after the next.

Come 7 am, I felt rested and excited. I recalled those hours laboring in the tub vs. comfortably resting in bed and was yet again reassured that I had made the best decision for baby and myself. Our night was enjoyable, and I can't confidently say I would have even had the strength to push had I opted to naturally labor with the pitocin all night.

I told the nurse I felt some pressure and asked me be checked again. Casually, the OB walked into the room and 10 minutes later, I was pushing. He checked me and with a smile on his face exclaimed, "you're ready!" I was at 10! (Finally :)!
Call me crazy, but pushing was pretty fun! It was like finishing a marathon. Kyle, our nurse and and the OB surrounded me, counted during pushes and cheered me on. The room wasn't chaotic or full of random people, it was both calm and full of excitement. Stressless and enjoyable. Another nurse brought in a mirror so I could see the head of dark hair that the doctor told us about. It still feels like a dream that I saw our baby in that way.  This entire process is such a miracle, there's just no other word to describe it.

Our baby crowned, and in the next push his body was fully out. They placed him immediately on my stomach and I was in shock. They just kept cheering me on to keep pushing, so it took a second for me to realize that our baby was born. Kyle exclaimed, "it's a boy!!" as soon as they placed him on my abdomen. Still in shock. I remember not knowing how to hold him because so many hands were on his body, checking his vitals, wiping him down, etc. Kyle leaned down and kissed my forehead, and I moved our baby boy up onto my chest. He tested his lung strength a bit, while I just held him as close as possible. Still in shock. This was our baby. We finally met.




We looked at our baby boy and at one another. This was Samuel Gage, our son.






It took about an hour for everything to calm down, and I just laid there holding Samuel as the nurse and physicians did everything they needed to. Because he was laying right under my chin, I couldn't see his face. I kept asking Kyle who he looked like. I couldn't wait to see every little feature that made up our son.

Our parents were waiting outside in the waiting area all morning. Once everything calmed down in our room, we invited the grands in to meet their new grandchild. They walked into the room with immediate tears of joys. We announced that babyVK was a boy, and told them his name. Millions of pictures, tears, laughter and phone calls followed.










Samuel Gage was born at 8:29 am, weighing in at 7 lbs 4 oz and 19.4 inches long. He had a full head of dark hair (which is already turning blonde), and huge dark blue eyes.

We named him Samuel because we love the timelessness and strength of it, as well as the meaning, "God has heard."  (Also, since our last name is a bit of a mouthful, we found it to be a challenge to come up with names to use with it ;)
Gage was my great-grandmother's surname. We always wanted to use a family name and both loved the name Gage. A lot of people have asked what we are going to call him and we figure over time something will settle in. For now, we call him Samuel, Sam and when he is really getting a good lung workout, Sammie G.





Welcome to the world, little man! So glad you are ours.




Last Thursday, September 11th, Kyle and I welcomed a baby BOY into the world!
Huge, dark blue eyes, 7 lbs 4 oz, 19.4 inches and a head full of dark hair!

Meet 

Samuel Gage 



We simply can't get enough.





The baby's room is officially ready for baby. Well, technically it's been ready for quite a while, but since nesting has kicked into all new levels of extreme, nothing is "finished" around here lately ;)

Since we had decided not to find out if we were having a boy or girl, the nursery proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated. 

We ended up with a muted turquoise (walls) and yellow pallet (accent), with a little navy, orange and white sprinkled in there. Theme wise, there's no denying that it's animals. There are lots of cute giraffes and elephants spread throughout this space. At first, I thought this nursery would be a total boy room (with animals and all), but it all easily fell into place as time went on. Although I'm not completely finished decorating (one of the blank walls will be a large black & white canvas of our family after our wee one arrives), here's what Baby VK will be coming home to:





Here's the breakdown of where we ended up getting the goods:

Furniture: Stanley Young America (Ever notice how some cribs look like a cage?! It took a bit to track down our sleigh crib and I'm a bit obsessed with it. The dresser and nightstand are from the same collection)

Rocking Chair: a gracious friend gave this to us and it's wonderful! 

Bookshelf: World Market

Laundry Basket: TJ Maxx

Crib Sheet: Adan + Anais

Chevron Crib Skirt: Target

Crib Quilts: The one with the yellow elephants was handmade by a cousin (she sells stuff on Etsy if interested!) The one below it is a bit larger quilt and from Target (it also came with the sheets and skirts, however, they are all navy...so I'm sticking with the yellow and torquoise for now)

Animal Canvas Art: We found these at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. You can find more of her work on her Etsy site (here), the artist name is Jen Callahan.  I plan to order another in a different size to fill out that wall space.

Framed Artwork: Etsy

Hooks: World Market

Changing cover: Adan + Anais 

Rug: Target (I thought these super soft rugs were really expensive when I went to purchase one at Crate & Barrel. Lesson learned, it was only $30 at Target!)

Storage Baskets: Target


The adorable rabbit and blankets are a few of the things that people had made for us - my favorites! There's are also some quilts in the basement play area and living room, just waiting to be used.
This stuff is way too much fun! 
It's still a bit surreal to walk past this room and see all of the books, blankets and toys. We are ready to meet the one who will enjoy all of it!



Never have I been so convinced that driving two hours on a weekend for a little getaway is a GREAT idea. In my mind, I think of vacations and picture getting on a plane and flying to somewhere  new and exotic. All of our dreams of going on one of those vacations for a baby moon went up in smoke when we looked at our vacation schedules, and when we would be able to go- it would have been well into my third trimester. Sadly, only one of us would have been allowed on the plane. (...and it probably wouldn't have been the safest decision either)

But, we still wanted to do something. So, a few weekends ago we celebrated my birthday and our baby and headed to the west side of Michigan. If you've never visited any of the towns that line Lake Michigan, you should put it on your agenda for next summer- there's little that beats them. We booked a hotel room on the water, loaded up the boat, Maizy and a hospital bag (just in case) and had ourselves a little baby moon.




We didn't do anything crazy, and that's what made it perfect. We ate a lot of ice cream, cruised around on the water, went fishing, took Maizy on some walks through running trails, had fun looking at all of the beautiful homes along the lake, explored little shops and and spoiled ourselves with some delicious food. No agenda, except to relax and spend time together.





And that's just what we did.







Here's the obligatory picture the growing bump. 35 weeks and plenty large. (I still get taken back looking at this picture, holy moly that's a bump!)




We came back home feeling ridiculously rested up. Just what we both needed. I can hardly wait for our next little getaway! Hard to believe the next time there will be a wee one in tow.





Dear August,

This week last year, I was gallivanting around Ireland on one of the best trips of a lifetime! I spent my birthday on a yacht off of the coast of Barcelona and sipped incredible wine with tapas.  Last year, you led us into a gorgeous Fall of football season and five friends having babies within one month. This year, we celebrated my birthday in a beachtown in Michigan, and we are anticipating our life to be changed completely in a few short weeks. Wow, how just one year changes things...life is flying by far too quickly.



Dear Husband,

Every night, you rub my feet so that I can fall asleep, and you don't complain when I get out of bed fives time throughout the night to use the bathroom. Thanks for serving me and baby well, I know it can't be too enjoyable to watch your baby momma run into things, spill things constantly and not use proper English due to pregnancy brain. (Well, I take that back...you do find a lot of this quite humorous.)


Dear Nail Salon,

I think you are figuring out that I only go to you to get a body and foot massage while sitting in the massage chair for a pedicure. Thank you for letting me tip you five extra dollars for 2 extra minutes of foot massaging. Pretty toes are just a bonus at this point. I'm not ashamed.


Dear Baby Showers,

Although I still feel awkward about the whole idea of people throwing showers for us, I must say this summer has been full of feeling incredibly loved and encouraged through your tradition. We were able to see so many friends and family members, it was like Christmas in June, July and August!


Dear Watermelon,

You're still my favorite. I'll never leave you.
For ever and ever and ever,

Love, Meredith









People told me that I would feel different photographing newborns and children once I became a mother. Since I would see the world differently, I would naturally look through my lens and see things in an entire new light. I was excited about this idea for many reasons, one being that I would continue to be challenged and expand my learning. I'm a firm believer that connecting to your clients on a personal level completely changes the game. It's part of the reason I love photography, you connect with individuals and you can have a part in telling their story. Maybe that is towing the line of corniness, but it's true.

So, although we are still weeks away from meeting this wee one, I must say, those people were correct. I hold these sweet newborn, sing songs with their siblings to get them to smile, and make cooing noises to calm a fusy baby...and it all hits home. Right in the gut, and right in the heart. I think, "this is going to be our life," in the most humbling, exciting and (slightly) terrifying way. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones or some of that motherly intuition that is beginning to set in...but I look through a single lens and see this entire new world before me. It makes me strive and push myself for even better photographs, because I can better comprehend how these precious moments just mean so.darn.much.








Dear Belly,
You are making life really difficult lately. Moving from the couch to a standing position requires a "grunt" like effort, and hugging has become slightly awkward. It's more like a belly bump. You also move a lot when I laugh, and end up getting food on you at least once a day. No thanks to my slightly clumsy self. All of that to say, I like you anyway. It's pretty neat having this life inside.
Now if we could only time the videotaping correctly to record how much you move when baby is antsy. I think he or she is having a ball in there!


Dear Discount Tire,
You're my new buddy. Not only did you fix the tire on our new car, you did it for free. This may be standard, but it made me feel special. I'll be back the next time I happen to run over some nails in a parking lot.


Dear Basement,
Your walls are up, electrical finished and the drywall almost installed. There may just be a chance that your ceiling and walls will be painted and looking marvelous by the time baby comes. You may be the longest lingering project in our home, but you'll be well worth the wait. Ping Pong tournaments, football games and baby toys linger in your future.


Dear Air Conditioning,
I've never been more thankful for you. Ever.  You have been really good to me this summer. I won't lie, I was expecting much worse from the Michigan summers. I've only had four days where my fingers have gotten the size of sausages and my ankles have mimicked cankles, and I'd say that's pretty good. We won't be separating anytime soon, you and I.


Dear Betty the BabyMobile,
We researched SUVs for months and months, and finally took the plunge. We still need an offical name for you, but in the mean time, calling you "Betty" is working. It may stick. The only issue is that because your seats are all black, Maizy is easily camouflaged but her paw prints are not. Our home also looks like a Ford dealership- we certainly are Michiganders. Welcome to the family, Betty.


Dear our generous family and friends,
We are still unwrapping and unpacking baby gifts. The UPS man comes at least three times a week and now, he likes to know what is in the boxes. I think it's a fun game for him to see what we've been given. To say we are overwhelmed by your generosity is an understatement. This little family has been spoiled beyond belief and there are no adequate words or a way to properly thank everyone. Baby VK is one blessed baby.


Dear unnamed vessel,
You've provided us with endless hours on the water, and it's been wonderful. However, we still need to get you a ladder, proven by my face and belly plant into the water, followed by using your motor as a stair to get myself back into the boat (thankfully I didn't break it!). I love you little boat, but you were not designed to accommodate a preggers. Cheers to many more graceless moments.







On our way to church today, Kyle and I had a discussion about our faith. Seems obvious, right? To talk about your faith on your way to a building which celebrates it.
However, we hadn't had a "check-in" in a while. Asking those tough questions- when "how are you?" hits much deeper roots than then answer that it typically renders. The conversation continued as we sat outside at our favorite sandwich cafe and munched on Sunday lunch. But two hours later it seemed to have a different tone. I'm all about those non sugar-coated sermons, just give it to me straight. Today was one of them, but delivered in package of incredible grace, honesty and truth (truth that may, for many people- and truthfully, including us- may sting a bit.) I realize that I'm being a big vague, but all of this was to say that we ended the service with this song, and I haven't been able to escape the lyrics all day.
Nor do I want to.
It's the gospel laid out in this brilliant way that draws you directly to the heart of the Father.

If you've never heard this song, just sit back and listen for a few minutes. I won't get all deep on you, but just listen to the lyrics. They may just hit home.




I've been keeping a little list over here of strange/funny/odd/awkward things that people have said to me while I've been pregnant.
People are so awkward sometimes, but I sort of love it. Makes life so much more interesting, wouldn't you agree? I'm always good for one or two awkward moments, so I appreciate the candor.
I can hardly wait to enter the infamous world of opinionated people once the baby actually arrives, if not just for the commiserating with others over stories of inappropriateness and overstepping.

I will give a disclaimer that by reading these you may think that 1)I work in a very strange, maybe inappropriate and open office and 2)my husband is against any "non-traditional" medicine. #1 is true, but we are like family. #2 is not true, but he is a bit of a realist when it comes to things  such as humm..pushing a watermelon out a hole the size of a pea.


Here are some favorites over the past few months:


"Oh sweet baby momma, I'll get that for you!" - the nice janitor at a work conference
"My name is Meredith." , as I reach out to shake his hand.
"Oh, nice to meet you sweet, sweet momma", as he reaches to touch my belly


"Have you gotten to the point where you have had to buy all new bras? At least Kyle will enjoy that, well, until you start milking. Then it's like pancakes instead of balloons."
- a male coworker.


"What sex is it?" - stranger in the park, pointing at Maizy
"Oh, she's a girl" - me
"That's what I thought! Obviously you are carrying a girl!"
"Oh, you meant the baby?" - me
"Duh." -stranger.


"You want to deliver naturally? How delusional are you?"


"I signed us up for a Lamaze class" - me
"I can't come." - Kyle
"What do you mean?" - me
"I'll give you a class. I can't sit through an entire day of crunchies telling us that you won't be in pain." - Kyle
"It's one day, it won't kill you."  -me
"It just may."  -Kyle
"Oh stop. It will be helpful...buttt I also made an appointment to meet with a potential doula" - me
 "WHAT?? I'MMMM YOUR DOULA! (pause) and I'M FREE!" - Kyle
(update: we're going to Lamaze but the doula is still up in the air ;)


"Could the doctor just send ME a note telling the sex of the baby? I need to start buying toys."
- Grandpa


"So, when are you due?" - the woman checking me out at Macy's
"September 7th."
"Oh, so that would make the date..hummm...december?!"
"What date?"
"The you know, the sex date {pause} ...It was clearly a very long winter indoors."


"DON'T lift that!!"
- stranger in the parking lot when I was loading a small bag of dog food into my car


"Can I touch it?"
- old man in the checkout line at Kroger


"You live such a charmed life you are going to sneeze and the baby will pop out! Opp! Babies here, all clean and perfect!"
- a male coworker.
<-- I wish ;)


At a coffee shop:
"Could I have a side of fruit? - me
"We don't sell that separately, but I will ask..."  - barista
I hear her as she turns the corner to ask her boss:
"Could I sell a side of fruit to a customer" - barista
"We don't sell fruit separately" - boss
"But, well...{she whispers} she's pregnant.." - barista


"Are you...hummm...hummm..."  - a family friend that I haven't seen in years
"No, she's just gotten fat. "  - my dad


"You're starting to show!" - a friend at church
"No, she just looks like she really has to poop." - my tactful husband


"Oh, wow, you've humm...grrrowwwwn."


"Hi Ricardo!"- Kyle
"You named your baby RICARDO?!!" - friend
"No, it's Kyle's nickname for the baby!" - me
"Oh good, I was going to say...what on earth!!!!" - friend
(and there you have it folks, why the name is a secret :)


 "Are you not sharing the name because you picked something awful like Apple or Ivy?! Did you name this baby after a FOOD or PLANT??!"
- great aunt


"Don't let the pregnant woman go first in line! There won't be any food left for everyone else!"
- a complete turd of a family friend at a cookout


"Are your thighs touching yet? Wait until your boobs explode!"


"Have you started to leak?!"


"Have you had dreams about making out with everyone you know?!"
"Huh?"
"That happens! Just wait."
- coworker


(and because no quote wall would ever be complete without the input of a 2 year old that melts my heart into little pieces...)
"Hi baby cousin" - Hannah, as she kisses my belly





In celebration of finishing the most difficult year of residency- Kyle bought a boat.
Yes, his very own fishing boat. His new baby. His pride and joy.

Let's back up a bit though, as it sounds as if he went out and made a ridiculous purchase. Well, I suppose "ridiculous" could be a word to describe it, but it certainly wasn't a rash decision. He's been whining  talking about having a boat for the past six years. Yes, SIX. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy, just a regular ole' fishing boat that he can go out on the water with whenever his heart pleases. "It's for our family!" he'd say, with such excitement you could hardly help but laugh.

Over the past few months, I'm confident that his focus on a fishing boat is what kept him sane (and drove me nuts :). I'd hear  "oh, this is definitely the one.. how much can we spend again?!!," as he'd scroll through craigslist, a very clear indication that his eyes were bigger than our pocket book. I'd roll my eyes and respond with some very supportive comment.

Then, as I pulled into the driveway on Friday afternoon, I met eyes with the newest addition to the family (Name: yet to be determined, we are taking suggestions.) Post-call, he drove an hour to pick up the boat (of course, he couldn't wait to pick it up so he skipped sleeping- this comes as no surprise for anyone who has ever met my husband.) We had a lot to celebrate on Friday - officially closing on our home in Charlottesville, buying a fishing boat, and Kyle's last call shift of 2nd year!



Our maiden voyage was nothing short of spectacular and hilarious. Within twenty minutes of cruising around the lake, it started to rain. Rain, as in downpour. Downpour was then accompanied by some nice roars of thunder and plenty of lighting. We took our towels and covered our heads (with Maizy cuddled right in between us) and tried to wait it out. When it stopped after a few minutes, we came out from under our shelter and began to tinker around.

OH, but what a tease. Within five minutes, we were stuck in a huge thunderstorm in the middle of the lake. We ended up a tavern down the road, eating bar food and watching the soccer game as we dried off. Granted, it took a half hour to get off of the water due to some other boats having a bit too good of a time on Saturday afternoon, and forgetting how to properly drive a boat trailer (or load a boat, for that matter). At least we were entertained as we sat in the pouring rain, counting lighting strikes.

There wasn't a possibility that a little storm was going to ruin the day that my husband has been waiting for "forever!" We ended up on another lake that we often go to with friends and launched the boat there. Attempt #2 was a success! Sky clear, the sun shining.




I'll admit, it took me a while to come around to the idea of purchasing a boat. Just one more thing to take care of and store. However, I'll fully admit that my pessimistic attitude was wrong. I may not agree that it was the "best purchase ever!!," but I'm fully on-board that it was a pretty darn good decision for us. I'm glad I can be persuaded ... sometimes :)

Having something to do that we both will always enjoy, being able to take our child (ahem, children if you include Maizy) and knowing that many memories lie in our future of being on the water does hit a sentimental cord (and not just because just about everything seems sentimental these days due to hormones). While I put my feet up and enjoyed the sunset, Kyle caught fish, and Maizy played fetch into the lake. We excitedly talked about bringing our child fishing, teaching him or her to tube behind the little wake and the first fish they'll catch.

This little family has plenty of lovely days ahead on our currently unnamed vessel.





Oh, and this story would not be complete without our make-do anchor making an appearance. We couldn't find the one we wanted at the store the night before, so we decided to make our own for the voyage. Hey, we never claimed to be fancy.



Rest assured, we now have a proper anchor.



This past weekend, we turned the country music up loud in the truck and sang along to some of our favorite lyrics. We ate ice cream cones, took naps and cast the fishing line into the lake. We enjoyed a Michigan sunset while on the maiden voyage of our new fishing boat, and docked the boat happily drenched from a downpour. We celebrated a new addition with friends, went on a family bike ride with Maizy and finalized a baby name.



To some, none of this would seem significant or important- merely just another weekend in the summer. To us, this was everything. This was the feeling of getting our lives back.

It was the mark of being finished with 2 years of residency, but moreso, being finished with second year itself. The most difficult year of residency is now behind us!

Neither one of us realized just how difficult the past year had been until we sat at Zingerman's, enjoying pork butt and collard greens. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted, the fog cleared. As if we both were trying so hard to get by and survive for months and months on end. Only to fueled by the few times we were able to rejuvenate ourselves from something as simple as going out on a date night to our favorite tavern.
Now, we have the opportunity to do things together- again. Honestly, to feel a little normalcy again.

I'm so incredibly proud of how hard my husband has worked this past year. He has sacrificed more than most people know (and sometimes more than I knew.) Because he is not one for complaining, I knew he was feeling worn down when he uttered comments that reflected his exhaustion. Yet, there was no solution. Just to endure. It was just a tough year, plain and simple. For both of us. I could count how many dinners with friends or social outings we were able to go to together on both hands, and would probably loose count at the ones we had to miss. I could tell you about endless nights of falling asleep on the couch waiting for him to arrive home, to be woken up at 2:00 am with a phone call that he was finally on his way. I could, at length, describe how fitting in time with friends, family and one another was exhausting, frustrating and heartbreaking because it felt like someone was always sacrificing. I could share how seeing my husband exhausted was painful in itself, and how I was exhausted from just trying to keep everything together. I could tell you how many times I'd talk to my family and be on the edge of a downpour of tears simply because I missed my husband, separate from the 20 minute dates in the hospital cafeteria when it took 20 minutes to park in the first place. I could talk about how many times my work travel overlapped with my husband's one weekend off. But life continues to go on, despite someone's work requirements. In between those long call shifts and work travels lay the moments that kept us going.

It takes effort to make life meaningful and intentional. I can tell you that those difficult times are just a part of the story. Because in reality, no matter how challenging it's been, it has forced us to make what we were given- good. Very sweet lemonade out of some rather rotten lemons, if you will. We've had countless things to celebrate and be grateful for over the course of a work year that hasn't been quick to warrant time for either. We learned how to care for one another, better. We've overcome some incredible heartache and shared first-time joys and experiences. We found strength in ourselves and one another that we didn't know we had. We've been cared for by friends and family and haven't been able to do much in return except say thank you.

Sure, it's been challenging. But what a shame it would be to define this year as simply that.
After all, we are expecting a wee one in 10 short weeks.

On Friday evening, we were driving to the store, making a list of what we needed to get for our fishing boat. Kyle was on cloud 9, giddy about just the thought of being able to sleep in and spend the next day on his new baby. In the middle of discussing how a ladder would be necessary if I ever wanted to get back on the boat (this pregnancy belly really does get in the way sometimes!), these lyrics ran through the speakers and we looked at one another, held hands across my growing belly and smiled.

I've got a ways to go on this ride
But I got a hand to hold that fits just right
You make me laugh, you make me high,
You make me want to hold on tight


Couldn't have said it better myself.



You may not have known this, but over the past two years, not only have I been working as a program manager and photographer, I also added landlord to my resume.

At times, this may have been the most stressful of all of the jobs.

I didn't apply. I didn't interview. I landed right in my lap.
Here's how it all came about:

When we moved from Charlottesville, we did not sell our home there. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances (mainly, the buyer backed out of the contract just as we crossed the Ohio border in the large Uhaul truck, complete with all of our belongings to move to Michigan.) Yes, unfortunate and stressful it was. I remember sitting in a Biggby coffee shop, searching for property management companies in Virginia. Kyle sat across from me and we'd trade calling them to discuss potentially hiring them to rent our property. We had no idea what we were doing, but we learned quickly. That specific coffee shop still conjures up the memories of those first few days in Ann Arbor, as not only our hearts but our home was in a such a bittersweet place- left in C'ville.




At that point, our realtor didn't think it was wise to list the home again, so our only option was to rent for a year then try to list it again the following Spring.

Without being convinced we found a management company that wouldn't rob us of every penny possible, we decided to list the home on craigslist for a week, just to see what happened. Thankfully, we found a great couple who took decent care of our home for almost a year and half. Our realtor had sent us rental agreements and legal information so we had all of the proper paperwork to move forward on our own.
After our first renters moved out, we decided to rent for one more year and found other tenants who were equally great. (Between those two years, the market wasn't back up to a point that we wanted to sell, and since we didn't have to sell, we decided it wouldn't hurt to see what market would do in one year).

Overall, it worked out well. The rent more than covered the mortgage payment, the tenants were trustworthy, and we just kept paying down the mortgage. It became an income property (temporarily). We also had tenants who could really enjoy the house like were able to years prior! Win win!

Now, I'll give you the flip side. Since owning a rental property certainly isn't that straight forward, and lovely!

Here's the reality:
No matter how trustworthy or kind your tenants are, they are still tenants. They don't own the home.

Sure, this may be obvious. And we knew this was the case, but you don't know it really...until you are hiring contractors and hemorrhaging money.


At the end of the day, your tenants are not there to care for your home. They will move out. YOU are responsible for any and all that they left behind. Fun is not how I would define hiring a handyman to fix a wall that the movers destroyed with a couch, or finding someone to do landscaping who won't lie to you with how much has to be done, or finding out the dishwasher is now broken ("suddenly") or there is a leak in the kitchen ceiling or the washer and dryer appear to not be working....and the list continues. This is all very basic home maintenance (the home was built in 2008).

Bottom line- unless you can make multiple trips to the location of your rental, you are relaying on other people's opinions and insights. And guess what? Each one of those comes with a price tag. Sometimes, a pretty hefty price tag.

The rental income you have can easily be put right back into the home when you are ready to list it. (Assuming you cannot be there to do anything yourself)

For example, one board on the back porch had begun to warp and started to bend one piece of vinyl siding on the home. The inspector wanted it fixed. So, we paid hundreds of dollars for someone to go to the home and measure, go to the store and purchase the goods, order ONE piece of vinyl to replace the small area, remove one piece of wood from the porch and nail a new one down. It's almost funny how ridiculous it is. This story repeats itself in minute ways and not minute dollars over and over again.

The difference is, if you owned and lived in the home, you'd take care of things as they arise. You do landscaping and care for the exterior. You'd power wash and clean the gutters yourself.  You wouldn't let a dog stay for a weekend and eat through a banister. You would fix appliances or scruff marks, or repaint when needed. You naturally would keep things tidy and kept up. You're invested in the home and you care for it continually (welcome to home ownership, right?).
I should mention that if we would have hired a company to find renters and collect rent, they may or may not have done any of these things either. It would have completely depended on the contract we had with them as to how involved they would be in home maintenance vs. just being a collection agency. But again...the price tag would have kept increasing with the more responsibility we gave a property management company.

Maintenance is necessarily and unavoidable.

Outside of the basic maintenance, you are also tacking on other costs such as increased home insurance, as once your home becomes a rental the insurance companies love to hike up your price, or paying the utilities between tenants and the fees associated with transferring accounts.



Let me reiterate that our only experience is from being a landlord from far, far away. 12 hours away. Where you don't have access to check-in at random times, and fix things yourself at the drop of a hat. The rental market can be quite profitable if done as a business, but obviously I'm not jumping at a new business opportunity here.

Whew!


If you are thinking of renting your home in a state that you do not currently live in, and do not have the availability to continually visit that home numerous times a year- be prepared (and errr..forewarned).
Here's some questions you should think about :

- Do you have the resources to cover your current housing situation (rent or mortgage) if you also had to cover your mortgage at your rental property? How many months would you be able to do handle both?

- Is there someone in the location of the rental property that you can call and trust to make decisions on your behalf? (And represent you, as the landlord, to the tenants in a professional way)

- Are you willing to sort through tenant applications, call past landlords and ask difficult questions of future tenants?

- If the rent payment does not arrive on time, what systems do you have in place to collect payment in a timely manner? (aka how do you not get taken advantage of?!)

- Do you have the resources to maintain the home: Could you buy a new washer and dryer if it breaks? What is the crawl space needs to be relined? Ice machine is broken in the refrigerator? All of these can range from one hundred dollars to thousands. Remember, it's still your home.

- Will the rental income impact your income taxes? You have to claim rental income as income, and you can only write-off mortgage interest. Depending on your annual income and what you are charging for rent, this could change your tax bracket.

- Is the rental market in the city advantageous for you? Could you cover your mortgage with the rental fee? Are you looking to make money from the rental cost? (For any profit made monthly, a percentage should be saved to cover basic maintenance)

- How long do you want to rent for? Is it for income or necessity or to wait out the market, or all?!

- When you eventually list the home, are you prepared to pay the mortgage (it's very difficult to have renters while showing the home), pay the fees and contractors, cover unexpected costs (such as paying for your lawn to be mowed each week) and then, have a backup plan if the home doesn't sell.

- When you do sell the home, at what price will it make it worth having rented the home for an extended period of time? Are you looking to make money, break even or are you okay losing money? If so, how much?


Despite all of the items listed above making renting seem like a huge debby downer, having a rental property has advantages as well. Ours was a bit trial and error, but we were very blessed to have great tenants and friends in the city who stepped in when random things came up. All along, we made money and paid down the mortgage (thus establishing more equity). In doing so, we were able to hold off on listing the home until the market was healthy enough to ensure we wouldn't be losing a lot of money from the investment. <-- all great things!

We listed the home this year at the suggestion of our realtor, as the market had gone up so much that it was a wise decision  to try and sell it now. In all honesty, this is where the majority of expenses come in - preparing a home for the market after two years of renting it.

Our realtor has been amazing and a HUGE help. She recommended the best contractors, got estimates for us and helped be our eyes and ears on site. One of our great friends took on the "landlord" role, did the walk-throughs with our tenants, and made very detailed lists for us to look over. If it weren't for either of them, either Kyle or myself would have needed to fly down to Virginia for at least a week to do everything ourselves and coordinate contractors. Honestly, neither one of us could have taken that time off of work to do it this time of year. (And frankly, my helpfulness levels have declined since carrying a human!)

Despite a lot of phone calls, using up an entire check-book, multiple estimates, "now what" conversations, and a few hiccups along the way, we still made the right decision two years ago when we decided not to re-list and to rent instead. We have learned a lot in the process and all in all, we have no crazy rental horror stories to report (huge sigh of relief!).

I'm am happy to report that after all is said and done, we will be closing on our dear home in C'ville in less than two weeks. Oddly, it feels bittersweet! There is a wonderful couple who is purchasing it as their first home. It's really fun to know that our first home is going to bless another family as much as it did ours (even if it's a little sad to let the little adobe go).


 (celebrating our first anniversary with a cookout in the old backyard...okay, now I'm just getting sappy)




My second trimester looked a whole lot different than my first, but that's not a bad thing. A lot of exciting (and interesting) things have been happening.
Now that we are officially in the third trimester, the second one seems a bit like a blur. It has flown by! I can't help but think "9 months doesn't seem all that long!!" (Except I may not be echoing that same sentiment come August) This whole year has quickly disappeared into memories (is it really June already?!!). Makes me realize the baby will be here in no time at all.



March, 2014.

Darling baby,

You spent the month of March traveling on planes from one coast to another. We entered the 2nd trimester together while in San Francisco, then headed to Bahamas for a nice little getaway. I thought my bump as so large then. (If I had only known....) It wasn't so much of a bump you were forming, more just rounding me out, making this momma feel and look extra plump. Your grandpa liked to joke that my belly could easily be mistaken for a beer belly - but I think the fact that I was continually touching it made it more obvious that you were growing inside of there.


I'd respond, "how is it NOT obvious!" I digress. Looking back, it wasn't that obvious. A stranger asked me when I was due at the end of March, and my face just lite up! I replied "September 7th" in the proudest way, then reported to your dad the news... "Finally! I just don't look like I ate too many burritos and can't go the bathroom!" He responded, "not quite, you could still pass as just really needing to poop."

We've been receiving the most thoughtful cards from family and friends who are simply smitten with the news of your life. Any day that seems overwhelming is made better when I look at our refrigerator door and see sweet notes from loved ones, sitting beside your ultrasound images. You are already so loved. You looked so, so tiny in those images, then I look down at my belly and it becomes unmistakable you are growing like a weed!


April 9th,

Today was the big day. I didn't know it, but your father was as nervous as could be. He hid it very well.
Today was the fetal survey. The big ultrasound where we get to see all of the ins and outs. 10 toes, check, 10 fingers, check. The doctor measured your fingers, toes, heart, spine, body length, brain, organs...all of it. With each new angle and screenshot, your dad crept closer and closer to the screen, making sure you had all four heart valves and every other small intricacy. (Sometimes it's possible to know too much). He gave multiple smiles and sighs of relief with each minute that passed. I sat in utter amazement, squeezing your dad's hand and exclaiming, "wowwww" about every five seconds. You looked so cozy in there, but you are certainly a squirmer!
Then the chance came to see if you were a boy or a girl- and we COVERED OUR EYES!! We kept smirking at one another from behind our hands, "should we look," "no, don't do it!"... "wait, maybe we do want to know!"
The day of your birth will be full of surprises. Your sex, your name, and if you happened to get my "twin toes" or not. (The ultrasound was not able to conclude one way or the other since your little foot was smashed against my uterus wall.)

We were in the exact same room, same bed, viewing the same television, as we were when we learned the news that we had lost your sibling. Last year, I had nightmares about this exact scenario. It was incredibly bittersweet, and yet redeeming. To see where we were to where we are now, God knew this entire story and how it would play out.
The following verse kept running through my mind as I laid on the table in awe of the picture displayed on the dark wall in front of me:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-16)

You are wonderfully, fearfully made. You're already known. Every single part of you is being knit together in my womb.
Sometimes there are just no words.


Baby VK says HELLOOO :)


I drove from our ultrasound appointment to the airport, another work trip was calling my name to Washington DC. I spent the week cooped up in a hotel, waiting for the moment to get outside and enjoy the cherry blossoms and sunshine. Just to feel that warm, fresh air and taste the arrival of Spring- completely rejuvenating and worth another week of feeling ill while traveling. I'm hoping you enjoy traveling much more outside of the womb than you have inside of it.

Your dad also has a new nickname for you. For the past week, you have been called "Ricardo." I wish I could give you a rhyme or reason but it's just your nickname. And it has stuck. I'm sorry.
(and just for good measure, sometimes in "Ricardarina" in case you're a girl) Again, I'm so sorry.


April 13th,

At 19 weeks, I am loving this bump you are giving me. I am no longer looking super chubby, but instead, I popped. I thought I had "popped" a long time ago, but now I get it when people use that term. It's taken a bit to get used to, this ever-growing thing. This stomach-is-starting-to-get-in-the-way thing.
We've had a few other 'bumps' along the road the past few weeks. Apparently one can develop allergic reactions while pregnant- which I had the opportunity to experience...all.over.my.body. That's right, you and I spent yet another Sunday afternoon in the ER after my airway began to close. Neighbor Jim drove us to the hospital (I think he is just about as excited for your arrival as we are!) I told your dad it was our way of getting to spend some quality time with him while he was on call. Lovely dinner from the hospital cafeteria and all. Praise God all is well, you are healthy, I'm healthy and steroids served to keep me from catching my eyeballs out of my head.
Safe to say we learn something new everyday.




April 20th,

Hey you,

Today, we celebrated your dad's birthday, hitting the halfway mark in our pregnancy, 7 years since we began dating, and Easter! It was one of those days I will never forget. There is so much to celebrate on a day like today. All of these life celebrations that bring smiles to our faces and warmness to our hearts are anchored in the story of what Easter represents to us - the single reason we are able to celebrate LIFE. What a beautiful day. My heart is overflowing.


Cousin Hannah Rose loves talking about you. "Baby Cousin come play," she says. She'll pat my stomach and whisper shyly, "baby cousin in there." Melts my heart thinking about how much fun you two will have together. You'll learn so much from that little genius. (Including how to "secretly" feed Maizy treats).



May 4th,

Ricardo,

A few weeks ago, all of the new furniture arrived at our home that you would soon be yours. All of the nursery furniture looked so beautiful, I got teary-eyed just looking at it. Although we haven't had time to rearrange the furniture or put your crib together, just seeing the gorgeous white pieces sitting in your soon-to-be nursery makes everything very real. Today, I found Maizy sitting in the dead center of the room, looking around. She is trying to figure out who exactly all of this fancy stuff is for.




May 11th,

Today is 23 weeks, I started to feel your flutter. OH.  MY.  GOSH.
At first I thought it was my digestive track. Nope, it was definitely you. You are moving and a groovin' in there. All times of day, you are punching and kicking and stretching out. Sometimes I'm not really sure what you are doing, except just saying "hello, I'm hereeee guys." I've been attempting to eat sugar right before your dad gets home, so that you would be a bit more lively in order that he could feel you. It may be a wivestale, because it hasn't worked for a week...until....


May 15th,

This evening, we were laying in bed and I started to feel you kick on the outside. I grabbed your dad's hand, put in on my belly and whispered, "just wait." He lite up like the forth of July. 

In other news, I'm learning how to roll myself off of the couch, how much I love the body pillow, and how difficult shaving my legs is going to be in the months to come. My belly is protruding enough that Maizy is none to thrilled with getting her spot taken up by this stomach during snuggle time. Her solution? To put half her body on my belly and half off, complete with the head and paw spread across my belly like it's suddenly a comfy pillow of sorts. She's say hello to you.


May 20th,

You already have a built-in buddy! This isn't new news, but you got to "meet" him.
Cousin Elichia and I grew up very close. From weekends on the lake, driving the train around the lawn, playing teacher, snowmobiling up north, jetsking in the bay, playing soccer together and multiple vacations (one in which we had crab every.single.night for an entire week on the east coast and another where climbed Diamond Head in Hawaii..)...we have lots of memories from childhood. Amazingly enough, we were both pregnant at the family Christmas party and didn't know it.
You are going to have a baby cousin, a boy, who is expected to arrive two weeks before you. I hope that our labor and delivery will be as amazing as hers have been (take after your cousins child!).




May 22nd,



My feet are beginning to disappear.


May 27th,

Babes,

This being pregnant thing is awfully limiting. Apparently growing a human can put some restraints on what you can and cannot do. I know you're having a ball in there, but out here it's taking some adjusting. I'm not sure if it's called denial or being completely naive, but the past week I've become shocked at what I can no longer do. It's a frustrating experience knowing that lifting a bag of mulch will prove to be a painful for days to follow. This body is just not my own right now...it's your home and I'll try to make it as warm and cozy in there as possible (even if that means no longer moving drywall down the basement stairs)

Aunt Jessica came to visit this week and cried when she saw the belly bump that you have formed. She talked and talked to you and even felt your kick! Together, we finished our landscaping- because that's what our family has been doing for months- stepping in and helping like crazy. I'd like to say that you will be spoiled, but the reality is we have been too. As I try to care for you, each of them has cared for us. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but goodness, I'd say it has taken one to prepare for you!



June 1st,

Ricardo,

Mom and dad put your crib together today. We rearranged the furniture in your nursery, tested out the rocking chair numerous times (it's comfy) and began to fill the drawers. I pass your room and peak inside. It takes my breathe away thinking that a little one will be occupying that crib by the end of summer. Sometimes it's those very small, seemingly insignificant moments that remind me that our entire life is about to change. We are both frightened beyond belief and excited beyond belief. It's safe to say that this Fall will be a rather long period of trial and error for us three (Four, if you include Maizy, your bestie)

On another note, your father's reaction to my growing belly is quite entertaining. Neither one of us can fathom how much it changes every single week! About once a week, I catch him just looking at it in disbelief. I asked him if it's weird to see me like this and we both agree that it is...by the time we get used to it you'll be in our arms. Lately, he will kiss me on the forehead when he leaves in the early morning, while I'm still half asleep, and then kiss my belly and tell you he loves you. There's nothing better.



June 8th,

It's a gorgeous, sunny day and you and I are entering the last trimester of this journey. Your growth has been stretching the round ligament pain to new levels, I'm feeling a bit more tired than normal and the feet...oh the glorious feet - sweet mother of swelling.
I suppose if that's all I have to complain about, I certainly can't complain at all. I'll treasure those times you kicked so hard my entire stomach moved like jello, and the constant need to always know where the nearest bathroom is (oh please never let me get stuck without a restroom in site!).

Keep the swelling, bloat and "please don't let me pee my pants" pleas coming. It's the only time in life where those things are ridiculously beautiful.



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