Our Magical December and Christmas celebrations- 2019

IMG_0488Like most Decembers, this month seemed to fly by! Between working, the holidays, leaving town twice, our best friends welcoming their new baby, and feeding my nesting habits, but also trying to enjoy our holiday decorated home, I feel like Christmas came and went faster than it ever has.IMG_0042.JPGI was actually pretty emotional and upset last week because Christmas “didn’t feel like Christmas” this year. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t working my usual holiday parties at the event venue, or not indulging in wine in my celebrations, or simply just feeling “off” due to my pregnancy and hormones, but I was quite upset that my usual Christmas spirit was non existent. I told myself over and over that just because things felt different this year didn’t mean that the Christmas magic wasn’t there and I made the best of the circumstances and changes that this year brought. After all, it was our 10th and our last Christmas of just Derek and I (before we become parents) and our favorite time of year together, so I knew I needed to enjoy it and soak it all in.IMG_0455.JPGAt the beginning of the month, We saw “ELF the musical” at Tuachan with the Durstelers. It was a pretty funny show, and it was the perfect “kick off” to get Christmas started. I didn’t get any photos from that night, but it was fun to see a show and spend time with family.IMG_0044








IMG_0487The next day, Derek and I visited the snow in Pine Valley with Ryan and Amber. It was fun to enjoy the beautiful drive and play in the cold white stuff that we don’t get at home. Harvey was in absolute heaven and we were all entertained about how much he loved the snow. We had such a good day and enjoyed our last adventure with Ryan and Amber before they welcomed their baby boy, Calum, the following week!IMG_0047

We also left town twice this month. On the 13th, we drove to Tucson with Ali and Josh to visit mom and Adam to spend time with them in between the holidays since we didn’t see them Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. We had a fun weekend spending time with them and seeing their new home (since we hadn’t made our way out there yet). We also opened gifts and had a early Christmas celebration together. I am going to post a separate post of our weekend trip to Tucson, but since I am still in the Christmas spirit today, I wanted to post this one first. ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_0465.JPGIMG_0466










IMG_0489We kicked off our Christmas week celebrations on the 19th with Christmas dinner at grandma and grandpa’s. We had our little celebration and opened gifts with them early since they were leaving town on Christmas Eve. Ali and Josh also joined of course. My grandma gave me my favorite present this year and painted these photos of Harvey! I am constantly amazed by her talent.IMG_0464 (2)












IMG_0474The next night, we had a little celebration at dinner with my coworkers. We exchanged white elephant gifts and enjoyed each other’s company. It was fun to spend time with this crew outside of work.IMG_0456You would think that by this time, my spirit of Christmas would be more existent. But even though it was the middle of the month, the Christmas music was blaring, our house was decorated, and we spent quite a lot of time with friends and family, it still didn’t “feel like Christmas” to me. Derek knew that I was feeling upset, so he made sure to also blast Christmas music when we drove his truck and he suggested that we watch more Christmas movies through out the rest of the month. He also gave me an “early Christmas” and took me to a concert in Vegas. IMG_0397

I told him a few months ago that I wanted to go to the Bleachers on the 21st, but thought it would be impossible being so close to Christmas and me also being 30 weeks pregnant. But he bought the tickets anyways and we made it work, so I got my Christmas present a few days early. We drove down to Vegas for the concert, spent the night in a hotel, and headed home the next morning. Even though it wasn’t a “holiday” celebration, live music and a short trip away with Derek was exactly what I needed to get out of my emotional “funk” and he knew it!IMG_0398

When we got back into town, we made gingerbread houses at Ryan and Amber’s, and spent time loving on their new baby. He’s so precious and makes me so excited for our own in just 2 short months!



IMG_0326After a week straight of Christmas music, celebrations, and Christmas movies with our wood burning fireplace, it finally started to feel like Christmas to me. And just in time!ย  On Christmas Eve, Derek and I made dinner and we opened our gifts from each other since I worked Christmas day morning. We ended the night with our annual Christmas eve movie and slumber party on our living room floor- even though we actually slept in our bed this year because the floor isn’t very comfortable for me at the moment. ๐Ÿ˜‰ IMG_0492.JPGIMG_0470.JPGIMG_0495.JPG

IMG_0494On Christmas day, I woke up before the sun to work a 8 hour shift. (yay for the hospitality industry) But since I had Thanksgiving off, and had already celebrated Christmas with Derek and Harvey, I didn’t mind. Derek even came in and had breakfast with me on my break!IMG_0476IMG_0484.JPGWe spent the evening with our Durstelers, but missed Axel who was sick, and Jake & Hattie who didn’t make it to town. We opened gifts with them, and had our annual gingerbread house contest. Randy and Michele took 1st this year!IMG_0482IMG_0479Shara is just about ready to welcome our baby nephew, and he will be here any day! It’s crazy to think that this time next year we will have a 1 year old and a 10 month old joining our crazy crew. We can’t wait.IMG_0480.JPGToday is the day after Christmas, and I hate to say that I spent all last night and this morning throwing up and having nausea and I had to call into work. I don’t know if it’s something I ate, nausea from the baby and hormones, or if it’s just because my body know it’s Christmas time. Not so fun fact: I was sick every single Christmas growing up. I even spent a few Christmas mornings opening my gifts in bed. I thought I finally grew out of my “Christmas curse” a few years ago, so I am hoping that this year it’s just from being pregnant and it’s nothing too serious (or that baby girl doesn’t already have my curse.)

IMG_0481.JPGThankfully, resting all morning helped, and my dad even stopped by since I didn’t get the chance to see him yesterday. It was fun to exchange gifts and visit with him for a little bit. His birthday is also tomorrow, so I am glad I got to see him!IMG_0477Even though this year felt “different” and my Christmas spirit wasn’t as high as it usually is, I am still feeling so thankful and so much love for this magical time of year. I am thankful for not only having so many loved ones (near and far) to give gifts and love to, but to also receive so many thoughtful gestures, time, and love throughout the month.IMG_0496I’m thankful to have a husband who knows exactly how to get me back into the Christmas spirit and who literally bends over backwards to make sure that I enjoy every holiday just because he knows how important they are to me. And even though I started my Christmas day with work, and ended it hunched over the toilet, I am thankful to have a job and extra money this time of year. And I am so thankful for that little babe in my belly, who makes me sick, but who has also cracked my heart open in ways that I never knew were possible.IMG_0478.JPGSo, even if this year looked or felt different than past ones, or you had some circumstances come up that you weren’t prepared for, or you were far away from home or missing loved ones, I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. This time of year can be difficult and draining, or it can be magical. And I am feeling so thankful for all of the little reminders throughout the month that made me realize that no matter how Christmas looks or how different it might feel, it is up to us to find the magic, because no matter the circumstances, this time of year is always magical. IMG_0491.JPGOnto the next adventure, Wren






Lessons I Learned From Spending the Summer Abroad- #4

image0 (4)I was planning on sharing 5 lessons that I learned abroad this summer like I did for our experience in China, but instead I decided to combine the final two since one wouldn’t have been learned without the other. (And to save you an extra novel!)ย  I would say this is my last post of the Dominican Republic, but knowing my nostalgic and reflective self, I can’t promise you that ๐Ÿ˜‰ So instead, here’s the last and final lesson I learned abroad this past summer, and to me, the most important. In fact, this lesson is the most important I learned not only this summer, but for the whole year- which is why I waited until the middle of December to share it.

Lesson #4 I learned from living abroad this summer- Emotional fulfillment comes from yourself, and yourself only.

From my observations, humans go through life trying to find what their “purpose” is, or what fulfills them. We are constantly searching for connection, adventure, fulfillment, and genuine happiness, whatever that may look like to you. If we weren’t constantly needing and looking for these things, life might feel pointless. I’ve learned over the years that some people seem to find “it” easier than others. Some people don’t ever find it and give up, while others spend their life searching for it to either be finally fulfilled or constantly let down. I know now that whatever it is we are looking for, it exists within us. And we will never find it if we are constantly looking for it elsewhere.

(Yeah I did just get that deep) image6 (1)If you haven’t already noticed through my posts or knowing me on a more personal level, I spent the last couple of years digging deep into myself and what I wanted out of this life. I focused on many different aspects including; learning to love and accept the type of person I am, making an effort to surround myself with people who bring genuine connection to my life, searching for the things that “light the spark” and learning to remove the things that don’t. These small practices and positive life changes brought many beautiful things for me. The year of 2018 was full of close connections with friends, family, and co workers, beautiful adventures, self love, new opportunities, and many days that I felt were the “best day” of my life. And on paper, or from the outside, my life looked “perfect.” I finally had everything I ever wanted. The problem was, something was still missing.

It wasn’t until this summer in the Dominican Republic that I realized that most of the happiness I was feeling was coming from outside sources. My purpose was coming from my dream job position that I worked so hard to achieved. My validation and connection to myself was being fulfilled by other people. My happiness was coming from the days that were filled with “happiness highs”. And my overall emotional fulfillment was coming from the things I was constantly looking forward to, and not the moment that I was presently in.image2 (5)I think it’s natural for most of us to get our genuine happiness, fulfillment, or purpose from outside sources. In fact, if we all knew how to do this on our own, our lives would be quite boring and lonely. The problem for me was when one of these things didn’t exist anymore, or when one of these chapters ended, I would crash. I would get extremely down, insecure, and have minor episodes of depression. And I would just look for the “next best thing” to fill the void. I didn’t really realize this was a problem, until I moved out of the country and suddenly all of those outside sources didn’t exist anymore. And boy, did I crash.

I struggled more emotionally in the Dominican Republic this summer, then I had for quite some time. I spent the first few weeks there wondering why we chose to leave our beautiful life back home, and felt frustrated that I was feeling sad when I โ€œshould have beenโ€ feeling happy.ย  I woke up each day missing the summer of the year prior. I wasn’t spending my summer doing the things I suddenly missed-drinking too much wine, night swimming with our best friends, attending concerts, traveling with our family and loved ones. I also wasn’t working my dream job, and felt like I wasn’t fulfilling a purpose for my life anymore. I felt like I lost connections to others due to the distance, and had difficulties connecting to the strangers who surrounded me. And even though I had Derek with me, I felt more alone than I felt in a very long time.image7

I quickly learned that I was feeling down because I suddenly didn’t have the outside sources that were temporarily “filling my void” or “giving me purpose”. And it was then that I realized the thing that was “missing” couldn’t be filled from outside sources. It couldn’t be filled from happiness highs, connections with other people, breath taking moments, or beautiful views, because those things don’t always exist or eventually come to an end. I had to learn how to fulfill it within myself, and that is exactly what I did.

I remember going to sleep on a night at the end of May. We had been in our new home for a couple weeks and I was feeling nostalgic for our life prior to this chapter, scrolling through old photos in my camera roll. Tired of feeling sad, I decided to put my phone down and take in the surroundings that I was currently in. We didn’t have air conditioning, so our room was hot and humid, I got frustrated…tossing and turning. But then, I listened to the tropical rainstorm outside and Derek snoring next to me. Our only plan for the next day was to go to the beach for the third time that week and find a yummy new restaurant. I missed Harvey, I missed my AC, and I missed the comfort of our home and my job, but I reminded myself there was once a time when all I wanted was to live in a tropical place near the ocean, and only hoped that the boy I was in love with at 15 would be experiencing that with me…and that is exactly what I was currently doing. How lucky was I?image4 (1)I decided that night that I would spend the whole summer not looking forward to what’s next, not looking back with nostalgia, but consciously soaking in every single moment that I was presently in, no matter how exciting or mundane it seemed. Whether it was when I was high on adrenaline cliff jumping off waterfalls and hiking tropical green mountains, or hunched over our crappy toilet with the broken seat from morning sickness, I would enjoy every single one. Because these moments were something I once dreamed about and wished for, and even though it didn’t feel like it at the time, I knew there would eventually be a time that I would miss them.ย  (Surprise…here I am writing about it, missing them.)

It’s quite interesting, once I decided to change my mindset and put my focus into learning to fulfill myself emotionally and enjoy every current moment, life started to test me. I started to get really sick with morning sickness, and I hardly left our apartment the last 6 weeks we were there.

There would be days that I would go without interacting with others besides Derek, who was suddenly extremely busy since I was slacking on our head teacher duties and he was picking up all of the slack for both of our work. I would spend the whole day inside, not soaking in the Caribbean sun or swimming in the ocean. I listened to everyone else talk about their adventurous weekends or the fun things they did that day, while I laid on our crappy bed with 5 ice packs on my head, hoping that the spinning would stop and that I wouldn’t throw up AGAIN.image3 (3)

And boy did I learn my lesson.

I learned to be okay with being alone all day since it was the only option I had. I practiced more yoga and meditation than I ever had. I found so much beautiful new music that I blasted through our walls. I enjoyed my cold showers and our crappy bed more than ever since they were the only two places that made me feel half alive. And on the days that Derek forced me out of the house, I soaked up every minute in the Caribbean sun, the ocean, and the saltwater air for as long as I possibly could before feeling sick again. I definitely didn’t feel a “happiness high” for a good 6 weeks. I felt disconnected from everyone, in the house, and even back home since I was keeping my real feelings and pregnancy a secret. I felt pointless not doing any work or helping out. I felt guilty for not being able to have an adventurous last few weeks there, but above all else, I finally felt genuinely happy. And I know it’s because I learned to to fill whatever “void” I had in the months prior, and be that way completely on my own.image5 (1)I am not saying that life isn’t meant to be filled with happiness highs, moments that remind us we’re alive, and genuine connections. I am the biggest believer that these things are what make life beautiful and purposeful. But this summer, I learned to accept that chapters eventually end, connections fade, and time changes just about everything. And even when these things do come to an end and life feels a little mundane or ordinary, life is just as beautiful and happiness does still exist. I know now that it is possible to lose just about “everything” (or at least feel that way) and still be happy because the only source that genuine happiness can come from, is myself. And all of those other beautiful outside sources just add to that happiness that is finally already there.

Onto the next adventure, Wren




A very thankFULL November & Thanksgiving 2019

IMG_9930.JPGHappy December friends!

With all of the little happy moments, nostalgia, magic, and beauty this month brings, I can’t help but love it. We finally put out our Christmas decor this last weekend, and our home is feeling extra cozy. I always love our home, but it’s my absolute favorite when our twinkling lights are hung, and our fireplace is crackling. Not only does this season make our home look cozy, but it brings loved ones into our home more often, and our walls are filled with so much love and memories made.











Whitney, Tyler, the girls and Benny decided to come down from up north last minute last week and stayed with us. We had so much fun with them. As always, it was so good to see the girls, who are SO big, and get some sister time in with Whit. And obviously, it was good to see Tyler and Benny too. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Harvey sure enjoyed his cousin time.IMG_9957.JPGWe actually saw them the week prior to Thanksgiving for the first time in 6 months when we went up north for the weekend. I think 6 months is the longest Whit and I have gone without seeing each other since we’ve been alive, and the time with her in the last 2 weeks definitely made up for it. It was also fun to see her growing bump, and finally let our baby girls meet each other (through our bellies haha).


IMG_9948Our sole purpose of going up north the week before Thanksgiving was to see friends and family that we hadn’t seen for a while (since we were gone all summer) We stayed at Demi and Austin’s new house and spent time with them, Cash, and Auston. It was so fun to have a relaxing weekend with our best friends and see them at such a different stage in their life than they were just last year. (House, baby, Career). We didn’t get a picture all together, but here is Cash with his favorite aunt. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And one with Auston, who insisted on being in the photo as the favorite uncle.


On our way up north, we stopped in Provo and saw our favorite friend from the Dominican Republic, Emily, and got to visit her at her cute dorm. It was fun catching up with her and showing her my growing bump that didn’t exist last time we saw her when we left the island.

We also met up with Grammy for lunch, it was so good to see her and catch up with her about our adventurous summer and new journey of parenthood that we are currently on.IMG_9937.JPGOn our way out, we went to Wingers to eat and catch up with Jess while she was working. Between spending time Auston, our Beckers, Grammy, Whit and the girls, Jess, and Emily, we had quite the eventful weekend, but it was so good to see our loved ones that we hadn’t seen for a while and I came home feeling so fulfilled and full of love.



The love didn’t stop when we got home though, because just 4 days after, it was Thanksgiving and we got to spend time with loved ones again. Whit and Tyler arrived just 3 days after we left Salt Lake, and we had way too much fun making a bed on our living room floor, spending time together, laughing about our matching bumps, catching up on life, and indulging in way too much sugar.IMG_9955IMG_9942IMG_9941









IMG_9940.JPGWe had dinner at grandma’s the night before Thanksgiving and the girls helped grandma and grandpa decorate their Christmas tree. It was so nice having us all together again. Like I said, this month was the first time I saw Whit in 6 months, and the first time Ali, Whit and I have been together since March. We just missed mom, who stayed in AZ for the holiday.IMG_9953.JPGIMG_9939IMG_9954

IMG_9934.JPGWe spent Thanksgiving day with our Durstelers at Randy and Michele’s and Whit joined us! We had too much fun taking family photos, playing with the girls, and talking about the THREE new babies that will be joining us within the next couple of months. I LOVE having not only one, but two sisters be pregnant with me. Derek and I get a new niece, our first nephew, and our own daughter all within 8 weeks of each other, and we couldn’t feel more lucky. IMG_9867.JPGIMG_9958.JPGIMG_9944.JPG

IMG_9943.JPGI left Randy and Michele’s house not only feeling VERY full of food, but also feeling so full of love and gratitude that I have a family who can all come together (from both sides) and celebrate such a wonderful holiday.IMG_9864Whit and Tyler left the next day after breakfast with grandma and grandpa, and Harvey and I cleaned the house and took a much needed nap. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We spent the rest of the weekend spending time with friends and saw Demi, Cash and Austin again (since they were also down for the holiday!) as well as Buddy, Ryan and Amber.IMG_9956IMG_9945

As of right now, I am sitting in my pajamas in my Christmas decorated house, listening to my favorite music and feeling baby girl kick. I am welcoming December with open arms, as well as the third trimester of my pregnancy (which I reached 2 days ago!) I am feeling more love and gratitude than I can explain, for all of the little moments last month brought, for all of the people that fill my heart, and for all of the new beginnings that have come with this year’s holiday season.IMG_9946This year marks 10 years of holidays with Derek, and it’s a little bittersweet knowing that next year we will have another person to share them with. I can’t wait to see the magic baby girl brings to our already beautiful lives though. Here’s to December, my third trimester, and more little moments that make me fill love, appreciation, and so FULL. (literally and figuratively).

Onto the next adventure, Wren