2019 Highlights-Video

Like most, the beginning of a new year always leaves me feeling sentimental and reflective of the year that I just experienced. As a sensitive empath, I can’t help but feel emotional looking back on all of the adventures, memories, and growth that I conquered in just a year’s time and to be reflective of all of the changes that have happened since just this time last year.

2019 was all about “just figuring it out”. It brought so many new beautiful beginnings, and in turn, taught me to let go of certain little moments, connections, and chapters that I so badly never wanted to end. This year brought some of my hardest days, and so many of my brightest ones.

It forced me to be less selfish, more patient, and most of all trusting in the timing of things. I took a risk and lost my dream job position, but fulfilled my dream of being a beach bum and living by the ocean. I connected more deeply to myself than I ever have, but at times felt more distant from others and the most lonely I’ve ever been. Derek and I both took every opportunity that was handed to us just for the hell of it and often thought, “wait..what are we doing?”Together, we experienced so many life changing lessons and adventures including creating another beautiful life together, when we weren’t planning on having babies for another year or so.

My body and my mindset have gone through more changes this year than any other year I can remember, but I am happy to say that through all of the emotional and physical roller coasters I’ve been on, I completed my one goal that I made for myself a year ago, and I’ve continued to choose self love through each stage- even the most difficult ones.

As much as my nostalgic self hates to see another year pass, I can’t wait to see what the next one brings. Here’s to 2020! Bigger changes, greater adventures, more growth, continued deep genuine connections, and as always, self love.

Onto the next adventure,

the next year, the next decade, and the next chapter of this beautiful life I am living,



Welcoming a new year, and a a little life update!

image9 (1)Welcome 2020! It’s been just over a week into the new year, and I already know it’s  going to be an exciting one. Last year was filled with so many life changes, and I am so ready to take on this new year and the next chapter that is coming with it.

I’ve been working on my “end of year post” along with my 2019 video for a couple weeks now, and I promise I’ll post it soon. But, before I share my final farewell to 2019, here’s a little update of the last few weeks, because boy have they been exciting and eventful.

image3 (10)image6 (3)









image5 (3)Like I mentioned in my previous post, last month Derek and I joined Ali and Josh in a road trip to Tuscon to visit mom and Adam for an “in between holidays” weekend. I was going to write a separate post about our time in Tucson, but I’ll spare us all an extra novel, and share those photos here. 😉

image2 (12)



image8 (1)Even though it was 70 degrees, and felt far from Christmas time, we enjoyed exploring the city of Tucson. My favorite thing about mom’s new city was the tall cactus’s and all of the street art!image4 (5)image4 (6)image5 (4)








We also indulged in way too much yummy food, spent a lot of time in the sun, and enjoyed each other’s company. I know growing up sometimes means distance and less time with family, but I am glad that between all of our crazy lives, we were able to visit and spend time with Mom, Adam, and of course Luna and Texie.image11.jpegUnfortunately Texie went to doggy heaven since we visited. She was such a sweet old soul and I am so glad we had a few days with her (and I took this photo) before that heartbreaking day.

image1 (14)

image3 (8)

















On a more positive note, Shara and Axel welcomed sweet baby Nico into the world on January 4th, making Derek and I aunt and uncle to our first nephew! Even though the countdown to him getting here felt long, I have been in complete awe since meeting him. It is such a surreal feeling that he is finally here and that our baby girl will be joining her cousin in just 7 and a half weeks! Transitioning  into parent and grandparent hood has already made this year so exciting for our Dursteler side of the family.

image2 (10)image4 (4)











Speaking of baby girl, my pregnancy is cruising right along and baby and I are doing great. After getting Christmas all put away, my nesting has kicked in more than ever, and we’ve been busy getting her nursery together. It has been so fun preparing and decorating the space that she will soon call her home.

I will post nursery photos in the future, but for now enjoy these cute framed photos of Harvey that my grandma water colored and gave to us for Christmas. Mr. handsome is very proud. 😉

image10.jpegA couple pregnancy updates for anyone who cares, but mostly my future self:

  1. Today, I am 32 weeks and 6 days.
  2. My symptoms are now mild compared to what they once were, other than  experiencing sciatica pain that gets worse at night. (She’s not even here yet, but she’s already on my nerve and keeping me up at night. 😉 )
  3. Baby girl is super active and I already know that I am going to miss feeling her movements in my belly.
  4. I am still working part time serving tables at the resort, but have definitely felt myself slow down with each week that passes.
  5. We have a name, and most of our family and friends know it, but I won’t share it until she’s here and it’s official.

Other than that, I have just been enjoying planning the baby shower and soaking up these last final weeks with her in my belly. Parenthood feels closer and more real every time we check something off our to do list, but Derek and I are feeling more excited than ever before.

image0 (12)image3 (9)



image2 (11)Between the house projects, and welcoming our nephew into the world, Derek and I still celebrated New Years. Is it even a holiday if I don’t get a chance to celebrate? 😉 Our friends were snowboarding in Brian Head for the day and rented a condo up there, so we went up New Years Eve to welcome in the new year with them.

image7 (1)Even though I couldn’t indulge in celebratory drinks, enjoy the hot tub in the snow, or spend time on the slopes this year, we still had a fun night! Derek and I dressed up in 1920’s attire, danced the night away and enjoyed a perfect last “holiday celebration” we had with our friends before we become “mom and dad”. It was the perfect welcome to a new year and this next chapter that is going to come with it.image0 (11)Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving always make me so thankful for family, New years left me feeling extremely grateful for our friends. We’ve spent the holidays with most of the same people for the last 5+ years. Some even going on 10! Between weddings, graduations, careers, moving away, traveling, and now babies…our lives are all constantly changing, but somehow it still always feels the same when we’re all together. image5 (2)

image1 (15)image6 (2)We spent time with so many loved ones in the last couple of months, and even though I didn’t capture each moment, or get photos with every person, I can’t help but feel extremely lucky. I know it’s uncommon to have a large amount of friends in your mid 20’s, but this time of year always make me realize just how lucky Derek and I are to have such a big support system and so many people who fill our heart.  Baby girl is so loved already by family and friends, and I am so happy to be welcoming in a new decade and a new chapter with a lot of the same people who were apart of the last one.image8Other than New Years, welcoming our precious nephew into the world, visiting mom and Adam, losing Texie, and preparing for baby girl, Derek also started his last semester of school this week! I am so proud of him for accomplishing something that is going to bring him closer to fulfilling his dreams. In the next few months, he will graduate and hopefully find a career all on top of becoming parents, and to no surprise, our lives are going to drastically change again.


image0 (10)











But that is okay. Since this time last year, life has been full of constant change and I’ve learned to accept it. I’ve learned to go with the flow, and I’ve learned to trust the timing of things more than ever before.  (More about that on my farewell to 2019 post coming soon!)image1 (16)And even though it always makes me sentimental and emotional saying goodbye to another year, I have never felt more ready for the next chapter- this new year, the last half of my 20’s, this new decade, and all of the adventures, change and growth that are going to come with it. Hello 2020, and goodbye to life as I once knew it. I am so ready for you!

Onto the next adventure, Wren



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. 🙂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!  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. 😉 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!)  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 😉 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 “should have been” feeling happy.  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.  (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. 😉 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. 😉 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. 😉 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




Lessons I learned from spending the summer abroad- #3

image0 (3)Between holidays, celebrations, work, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying every minute of this chapter of life, I haven’t found the time to finish writing my lessons I learned in the Dominican Republic this summer.

We’ve almost been home for the same amount of time we were gone, which is just insane to me. I feel like time went slow much slower while we were away, probably because we were on island time, hardly working/ had a routine, and I was counting down the days until I had my warm bath and A/C again. (haha, oh the good ol days. 😉 )image8Even though it’s been a while since we lived abroad, the lessons I learned this summer are still affecting my every day life. And that is why I continue to write these posts. So, here is number 3 and a ton of cute photos of the Dominican babies that I miss seeing everyday. (and one of my favorite DR baby of all) 😉 image0 (5)

Lesson # 3 I learned from living abroad this summer:

This world isn’t a bad place. 

When we first broke the news to our family and friends that we decided to spend 3 months in the Dominican Republic, we had a lot of responses like “are you sure?” and “is it safe there?” Like anywhere Derek and I have traveled, we expected this response. We knew that these reactions come from loved ones caring and worrying about us, and wanting the best for our safety and health. But we also knew that we would never purposely put ourselves or each other in situations where we didn’t feel safe, and our friends and family should know that we’re not THAT dumb. 😉

We obviously did our research before packing our bags and temporarily leaving reality behind, which is one of the reasons we decided to go with the same program that we did in China. ILP’s main concern with their volunteers is safety, which is why they have such strict rules. (No alcohol, no beaches after dark, in the house by 9PM, etc.) If you want more information on this program here is their website —> http://www.ilp.org

image6 (1)In addition to choosing to go with ILP again, we researched the safety of the country, which areas to stay away from, which beaches to avoid, what health concerns came with the bugs and food there, and so on. But I have since learned that no amount of research and preparation can affect the outcome of certain situations, or bad ones from happening.

image6 (2)image1 (8)


While were away this summer, the news back home broadcast-ed that a few Americans had passed away while visiting the Dominican Republic. Most of these deaths were from being poisoned at a certain resort by a Dominican local who worked there. Of course, news like this is going to spark concern in our family and friends. I had a total of 8 people reach out to me that week asking if “we were okay, if we felt safe, or if we had heard the news of the deaths.” Again, I know this was coming from their hearts, but we had to remind our loved ones that just because 4 american people got poisoned at a resort 6 hours away from us, while drinking alcohol late at night, didn’t make Derek and I any less safe. In fact, this situation left us feeling more safe and thankful of the strict rules of our program and our concerned neighbors in our community.


image2 (5)With this certain situation and a few others I experienced, I started to realize that a lot of people have the mindset that this world is out to get them. That traveling is scary, foreign countries are unsafe, and seeing the most beautiful sights, and experiencing different cultures isn’t worth the risk of getting sick with a virus or putting themselves in unsafe/ uncomfortable situations.It is perfectly okay if you think this way, but you most likely have this mindset due to things you’ve seen on the news, have read on social media, or have heard from your paranoid family and friends. I know this because I used to have this same mindset. I used to get overly anxious while leaving home, and think of every bad situation that could possibly wrong, even though I knew bad things happened close to home too. (Why is it that our minds naturally jump to every bad situation while traveling, and not just living our every day life?)

image4 (2)image9

My mindset didn’t start to change until I got over those fears, took the risk, and actually experienced traveling for myself. I eventually learned that the world is not out to get me. It isn’t scary, it isn’t unsafe, and the experiences I’ve had while traveling have always been worth the risk of something bad possibly happening.image5 (1)image7image5 (2)

Bad things happen everywhere, to random people. Whether you git hit by a drunk driver on your way home from work, experience a mentally unstable man shooting a gun at a concert in Vegas, get kidnapped in Europe and traded into sex trafficking, or get poisoned at a resort in the Dominican Republic, bad things happen.

But just because these bad things happen, doesn’t make this world a bad place. I believe, and I personally have seen, that there is so much more good than bad in this world. For every uncomfortable or scary situation I’ve experienced, I’ve experienced hundreds (hell maybe even thousands) of good ones. And if I am being completely honest, a lot of those thoughtful, genuine experiences have been while I am traveling.image4 (1)

For example, in the Dominican Republic, we lived around people who had close to nothing. Their homes were built through charities, their few outfits that they owned were donated, and their food was mostly scraps or leftovers (sometimes even from our group). But they were the most unselfish, giving people I have ever met. One week, they shut down all of the neighborhood shops and streets for a couple days to mourn the death of a neighbor and provide food, love and support to the grieving family. They would go out of their way to make sure their neighbors and community were taken care of, no matter how big or small the situation was. And they didn’t stop at their loved ones, because they did the same to us. We were complete strangers from a foreign country who didn’t even understand their language, and I have never felt more love (OR SAFETY) from a community.

image0-4-1.jpegimage3 (3)

And this kindness doesn’t just exist in that ghetto community of the Dominican Republic. In fact, I can think of a experience with a thoughtful gesture from a stranger in each country we have visited.  From my experiences of living abroad, I have learned that overall this world is a good and safe place. Kindness and love exists everywhere, even though the news and media doesn’t always show it.image1 (7)So with that, here is a little reminder. You can live your life being cautious and paranoid that bad things will happen to you, or you can take the risk and do the things you want to do, even if they seem insane, or unsafe to other people. The choice is your’s, just make sure you aren’t putting your dreams on hold, or not visiting certain places because of that one time you heard about something bad in the news.

Because I promise you, no matter where you go, you will find love, kindness and safety.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

Shara and Axel’s Woodland Baby Bash

image3 (3)I’ve kicked off my holiday season with so much celebrating, and I am not an ounce upset about it. Two weeks ago, we celebrated baby bird at Ryan and Amber’s shower along with our Halloween party.  (see previous post) image0 (3)Last weekend we celebrated our nephew at Shara and Axel’s baby shower, and also attended Nicole and Andrew’s wedding. And Monday night, we are celebrating my wonderful grandma turning 80. My life has been a constant party filled with loved ones, and there is nothing I enjoy more.

image1 (7)image0 (3)






image4 (1)Since I hosted Shara and Axel’s baby bash with Michele and Heather, I wanted to post about it. It was such a perfect celebration, I got so many wonderful pictures, and it was another event that I decorated that I was pretty proud of.image1 (9)image3 (6)image0 (5)image5 (4)image2 (7)

image3 (5)image4 (3)image5 (2)image4 (4)

image2 (8)








image7We went with a woodland theme for decorations and food, complete with “mama and papa bear” sashes. Much to our surprise little boy got so many cute outfits and gifts that also went along with this theme. I have a feeling he is going to love campfires, trees, and the mountains. 😉image2 (5)

image4 (2)image3 (4)image1 (10)Shara and Axel wanted a more intimate party with family and close friends, so we kept the guest list small.  Aunt Debbie and cousin Shawnee even made it from out of town, making it that more special for the parents to be. Shawnee is also pregnant with a little girl who is arriving in March, so of course we had to get a photo with our THREE baby bumps. image2 (6)image0 (4)We played a couple baby shower games, enjoyed each other’s company, indulged in way too much food, and sat in awe of all of the cute baby things that little dude got spoiled with.

image5 (3)image0 (6)image6 (2)

image6 (1)

I love this nephew of mine so much already, I can’t wait to hold him and give him all the loves in just two short months!

image5 (1)image1 (7)










Also, since so many talented people helped this cute little party come together, here is some credit! 🙂

Food: Heather, Michele, Shawnee, 
Label signs and HOMEMADE cookies: Shara
Wood cookie stand and sign holders: Axel
Diaper Cake: Heather 
Theme, Decor, & Photo back drop: your’s truly 

Onto the next adventure, Wren


Our Very Happy Halloween

image1 (8)I can’t believe I am already writing my “Halloween post” again. Years always seem to go by pretty slow to me until the holidays roll around, and then I feel as if I was just celebrating these special days. This year, Derek and I dressed up as the milk man and a 1950’s house wife, I had to take advantage of that bump of mine because who knows if I will ever have another baby bump on Halloween!

image2 (6)image3 (4)









image6 (1).jpegOnce I thought of our perfect costume, I had to figure out where we were going to wear them. Instead of waiting around to get invited to plans or a party, I decided to throw my own! Kallista and I hosted a friend Halloween party last Friday, and it was one of the most fun Halloween celebrations I’ve ever had. We kept things cute, but also spooky. image3 (7)image1 (11)image0 (7)










image2 (9)We had drinks, food, dancing, and of course costumes, and the best part? Most of my favorite people attended.image1 (10) image4 (2)image1 (9)









image2 (7)image3 (5)image6 (3)

image7 (1)image7 (2)image5 (3)

image4 (3)image0 (5)image3 (6)I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me if is it different celebrating the holidays since I am pregnant, or boring since I can’t indulge in my usual celebratory wine. And to be completely honest… no. Being surrounded by loved ones,  good music, and good food, for any type of celebration or holiday, will always be my favorite thing no matter the circumstances. Plus, the party planning part of it all was just another highlight. image10

image6 (2)Other than our Halloween party, the only other celebratory thing we did this month was carve pumpkins with the Birds. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of our end results, but we took these bump photos and they turned out way cuter than our pumpkins did anyways. Who wore it better? The ladies or the guys? image9image1 (7)image7image8And of course, I decorated our Dursteler abode. Decorating for the holidays is my favorite thing about our home. Plugging in our lights every night and lighting my fall candles day makes our home so cozy! image5 (1).jpegimage4 (1)image3 (3)

image0 (3)I’ve also indulged in way too many pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Being pregnant this year on the holidays is great because I am supposed to be gaining the weight that I’ve put on. And everything tastes better than it ever has. Little babe must know how content my heart is this time of year because she seems pretty happy with all of the cookies and sweets I’ve been shamelessly eating. 😉 image0 (4)image2 (8)Speaking of little babe, it is so weird to me that this holiday season will be our last of just Derek and I (and Harvey) This year is our 10th year of holidays together, so next will obviously feel so much different. I am so excited though! I can’t even comprehend the magic that having a baby, or kids in general, will bring to the best time of the year.image5 (2).jpeg As far as tonight goes, our plans are to order take out and play cards at Ryan and Amber’s, which is a usual week night thing for us. I am glad we have friends who still likes to socialize, but understand the tiredness (and hungriness) that comes with being pregnant. (and dealing with a pregnant wife 😉 ) image0 (6)I wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Onto the next adventure, Wren


Our Magical Night at Rise

image0 (4)At the beginning of this month, Derek and I attended the Rise festival. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is an annual lantern festival held in the Mojave desert that promotes letting go of the past and setting new intentions for the future. It is a 3 night event with live music, food trucks, and a total of 6 lantern releases. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in or you want more information on it, here is the link:

https://risefestival.com/image1 (9)I’ve been wanting to attend this event for years, especially because it is so close to our home. Derek surprised me with tickets for my birthday back in March and to be honest, after our crazy summer, I totally forgot we were going until we got the “your event is coming up” email. Of course after being reminded, I felt like it was my birthday and got so excited again!image4 (2)image1 (7)

image1 (11)image0 (9)We attended the event Saturday evening/night. We drove down to Vegas that morning, checked into our hotel and ate dinner at a cute little diner. We even made it to 7 magic mountains along the way. I’ve always wanted to visit this spot as well, and even though we’ve passed it probably 100 times, we had never been. Isn’t it funny how we don’t take advantage of all the cool things and landmarks that surround us so close to home? It wasn’t anything too special, but it was cool to see nonetheless.image1 (8)image2 (5)image4 (1)

image2 (6)The event itself was amazing. We had such a fun night together in the desert surrounded by beautiful music, bright stars, no cellphone service, and thousands of like minded people. It was such a peaceful experience and such a nice little break for us to have together.image4 (4)image1 (10)image7image8 (1)









image9Our tickets each came with two lanterns to release. I wrote my absolute favorite things on one, and new intentions I’ve set for myself on the other. Derek wrote things that fill his heart on one, and drew his Aries symbol on his other one. (Since when did I convince him to be so into astrology 😉 )image5 (4)image2 (9)

image0 (3)









image4 (5)The actual lantern release was magical to say the least. I’ve seen plenty of photos and videos of these things, but I was blown away by the beauty of it all. Derek and I were both at a lost of words for a while and I may or may not have even cried. 😉  It was such a beautiful moment that I highly recommend every one experiencing at least once. We’ve already talked about going again next year!image3 (7)image0 (6)image4 (3)image3 (5)We ended the night binge watching cable TV and eating way too much pizza in our hotel bed, slept in the next morning and headed back home. I love all of our extravagant travels and adventures, but something about our short weekend getaways together fill my heart in a way that airports, beautiful beaches, and fancy airbnbs could never.image5 (1)

image7 (1)

image2 (8)





image5 (2)image0 (8)














image3 (3)Side Note: Since I am on the topic of travel and a lot of people have asked… Yes, we have a couple travel plans before baby comes. We will probably leave for the holidays, and hopefully have one more “vacation” before her arrival. We don’t like the idea of a “baby moon” because we plan to still travel a lot with our future little ones. The main difference being, we’ve both agreed to never leave Harvey again for longer than 2 weeks, so looks like we won’t be gone too long for the next 10ish years. 🙂image6 (2)image5 (3)

And with that, I’ll leave you with the words I wrote to the stars…

Here’s to: Adventure, Change, Memories, Happiness, Growth, Beauty, Gratitude, Love, Feelings, Being aliveimage2 (7)

Onto the next adventures (grand and small), Wren



Lessons I learned From Spending a Summer Abroad- #2

image0 (1)Like I mentioned before, Derek and I both had a lot of growing and life lessons learned while we were away for the summer. I’ll never be able to explain how temporarily leaving reality for a few months changes you, but I try to do my best to give you an idea through my words and these posts.

The second lesson I learned from living in the Dominican Republic this summer was,

Disappointment can not exist without expectations.

This lesson can apply to just about every single thing in life, but after being in charge of a group of 30 volunteers, and listening to constant complaints, this lesson became more apparent to me, and I took it to heart. Since being home, I’ve thought about this certain lesson a lot, and my whole perspective on life and my “problems” have changed.image6While we were in the Dominican Republic, one of our duties as a head teacher was to act as a “counselor” for the volunteers that needed it. This meant to constantly check up on each volunteer, listen to their personal problems, keep it all confidential, and try to help them in the best way we could, so that they would enjoy their experience abroad.

To be honest, I absolutely LOVED this part of my “job”. If you know me personally, you know I am always willing to provide a listening year, a shoulder to cry on, and any advice, even when I know it may not help.

But as I listened to each volunteer talk about the experiences, their complaints, and their expectations, I learned that the volunteers that were struggling the most had very HIGH expectations going into this experience, which led them to feel disappointed, let down, and even depressed. Some of them even went as far as breaking the rules and sending themselves home because this experience was “just different than they thought it would be.” I constantly found myself thinking “well what did you expect?”

image5I am not trying to say that having expectations is a bad thing. I think it’s important to have them when taking an opportunity, forming and connecting relationships, and starting something new. However, like with most things, I think there is a fine line that can be crossed when having too high of expectations can lead to unfulfillment and unhappiness.

After observing this all summer, I started thinking about my own personal expectations and exactly where they are with the things in my life. My own experience abroad, my marriage, my relationships with family and friends, my career, myself. I think It’s important for all of us to know where our expectations are, so that we can prevent ourselves from feeling let down or like we “settled” for something we didn’t want.image3 (2)For example, if you have expectations of being comfortable, having a set schedule, and feeling like all things should always go as planned, I do not recommend moving out of the country for a few months, or even traveling out of the country, unless it is on a guided tour.

If you have expectations of having a love story like every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen, and finding a real life guy or lady that looks good 24/7, doesn’t have any personal issues, and always treats you like a queen/king, I do not recommend dating and just sticking to watching those romantic comedies. 😉

If you expect to start a new job, move out of state, or meet new people and be completely comfortable without any learning curves, I promise you you will be disappointed or let down at one point or the other.image2 (4)My point is, I think it’s important for us to find what expectations we have, and do our best to avoid situations that will not meet them. Obviously, we will all be let down or disappointed from time to time. And sometimes, we don’t learn what our expectations are until this happens (like when we move out of country for 90 days and think WHAT THE HELL DID I DO). But on the other hand, I also think these experiences can teach us to lower our expectations, and we can learn to find happiness and fulfillment in even the shittiest and uncomfortable of situations.image4I’ve personally applied this lesson a lot since being back home and I feel way less disappointed by the things that would normally stress me out. Yeah my check engine light is on, but what do I expect from a car that is 15 years old? Yeah my dream job didn’t want me to come back to work, but what did I expect after leaving them to travel out of country for 90 days? And yeah, I can’t do the yoga pose that I had a goal of accomplishing by this time, but my body is growing another human, so its OKAY… And so on. I am all about living my life with the less amount of stress as possible. And even though stressful situations will always be there, I’ve felt a lot more content after learning to lower my expectations of things.

If you personally find yourself in a lot of stress, or stressful situations, try finding where your expectations are and either lower them, or do your best to avoid situations that you know won’t meet them. I promise it will help!image0(this selfie was taken at the Rise festival, that post will be next!)

Onto the next adventure, Wren