Incoming Baby Doren: Weeks 8-12

Remembering back to these days brings all the feelings: excitement, anxiety and car sickness. 

We had had our initial doctor's appointment by this point, and fully confirmed there was a babe in there! We saw the little flickering heartbeat, and Joe's eyes welled up. I'll never forget that all my life. 

We had had our initial doctor's appointment by this point, and fully confirmed there was a babe in there! We saw the little flickering heartbeat, and Joe's eyes welled up. I'll never forget that all my life. 

Outtake 1.

Outtake 1.

Outtake 2.

Outtake 2.

We found out on February 4th (a Thursday). I was about a week late, which was not that unusual, but we planned to wait to take a pregnancy test until we got back from our weekend in Detroit. I was working from home that particular day and antique shopping for work when I parked across the street from a Walgreens. I thought, I'll just get the test now and then we can have it at the ready when we get back. I bought the cheapest, most generic pack of two, with the thought that I didn't want to spend a lot of money when it would just be negative. On my way out, I grabbed a container of cut up pineapple because it sounded irresistible (first sign). 

When I got home, I had to go potty. I thought, why not just do one now, it will be negative, then I can take the other on Monday. It immediately turned into a plus sign. I was shaking and put it down and thought, it absolutely will turn negative if I just let it sit for the recommended 3-5 minutes. I walked away, kind of giddy and emotional, and came back to a clear positive. 



I couldn't hardly wait for Joe to get home. I first called our insurance and got that figured out once and for all (it was on the big long list for the year, checked that bad boy right off!), so the first person to know the news was the BCBS customer service agent, Orlando. He said congratulations. 

It was Joe's birthday month of February, and it happened to be a "note" day, which he had just mentioned to me was his very favorite day. So, I wrote this note and stuck the test under his pillow (in a baggy, don't worry). His first reaction was denial (nope, really?? nu uh!! whaaaa?!), then a big kiss and we hugged for a bit. Both of us were in a bit of disbelief. Then we stayed up late and watched animated YouTube videos of a baby growing in the womb for nine months, while still in a state disbelief/bliss. 

8 week ultrasound. Please excuse the chipped polish. 

8 week ultrasound. Please excuse the chipped polish. 

Joe took this photo at work. The baby was the size of a raspberry at that teeny! 

Joe took this photo at work. The baby was the size of a raspberry at that teeny! 

I hardly had morning sickness in the morning, it was always throughout the day and came in waves. I fully embraced it when it came, after all, this is a tell tale sign that baby is doing okay, and I can put up with a little bit of nausea as long as this baby is growing and growing some more. I never actually got sick, and the best way I can describe it was a car sick/motion sickness feeling that would come on unprovoked. Eating something, anything, made it feel a bit better, even though I didn't feel too hungry. My snack of choice has been sugar-based all along, and usually consists of chocolate, candy, fruit, or all. Also, from the get-go, I had an insatiable thirst. Water bottles have been my friend, and I've bought/lost/thrown away about five of them at this point. 

All the snacks for one day at work. I felt this was a little excessive, but I needed it all (and looking back now, I actually did pretty well). Those applesauce packets were a big craving at one point.

All the snacks for one day at work. I felt this was a little excessive, but I needed it all (and looking back now, I actually did pretty well). Those applesauce packets were a big craving at one point.

I remember thinking here, oh, you can DEFINITELY see my bump now. Right after this photo, I brought Gruffy to the vet and expected people to notice right away. Little did I know I had quite awhile before that would start happening. 

I remember thinking here, oh, you can DEFINITELY see my bump now. Right after this photo, I brought Gruffy to the vet and expected people to notice right away. Little did I know I had quite awhile before that would start happening. 

Around 10 weeks I had a super vivid dream of a little girl with blonde pigtails. She was about two or three. Joe, myself and she were playing outside of my parent's house, and we were both caring for her. That gave me the impression she was our daughter, and I felt this very strong connection to her. A car pulled up and she nested her head into my legs; she was super shy. Ever since then, I've felt this is a girl, but as it gets closer and closer, I'm really not so sure. It completely doesn't matter to us what the gender is. So thrilled either way.

My sister was the first to know. She felt left out when she was one of the last to know of our family members about the engagement, so I wanted her to know first about this. She told me she will book her flight for early October that day. 

We told all our sets of parents around eight or nine weeks, once we had it confirmed with the doc. We told my parents through a note wrapped up with the ultrasound, which said something about an early 39th anniversary gift (the baby's due date is October 8). My mom knew it was coming, or so she says. 

We told his dad and step mom in a similar fashion, with his sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew in Grand Rapids. Pete shed some tears, which was super sweet and I will never forget his reaction.

We didn't get the luxury of seeing Joe's momma, so we called her and Joe told her a knock knock joke. "Knock-knock." "Who's there?" "Grandma." "Grandma who?" "Grandma you!"

This is probably my least favorite picture of the bunch. This was after work, and I wasn't feeling well at all. Joe was cooking dinner and I was trying my best to get excited about it. The sickness went away the day after this. We bought that mobile from Etsy, made in Lithuania! 

This is probably my least favorite picture of the bunch. This was after work, and I wasn't feeling well at all. Joe was cooking dinner and I was trying my best to get excited about it. The sickness went away the day after this. We bought that mobile from Etsy, made in Lithuania! 

12 week ultrasound. I saw the baby move on the screen for the first time, which blew my mind. Such human-like movements already! 

12 week ultrasound. I saw the baby move on the screen for the first time, which blew my mind. Such human-like movements already! 

There is so much anxiety through those first twelve weeks, mostly because of all the unknown. You can't feel the baby move, so you don't have that reassurance, you aren't showing yet, and we chose to wait to tell most people. All we wanted was for this baby to be healthy and make it through the finish line. Googling became my worst enemy - just don't do it. There's a bit of loneliness in those weeks and it just drrraaaggsss.

On the other hand, it was a super special time with Joe, as we were the only ones that we saw in our day-to-day lives that knew this secret. But at this point, we just wanted that baby to keep growing and keep getting bigger, because we already loved this little bean so much.

For all the bump pictures in a row, see this post here


I have so many surprises for you today! One, I finally wrote a blog post. And two, we are expecting in early October and have been taking pictures all along the way.

Our 20 week ultrasound photo, a wedding gift from Joe's momma and our baby's first pair of shoes on top of a blanket bought in Ireland. 

Our 20 week ultrasound photo, a wedding gift from Joe's momma and our baby's first pair of shoes on top of a blanket bought in Ireland. 

This post has been on my to-do list for far too long, but my to-do list is also far too long. I have to-do lists to make certain to-do lists. Poor Joe is also getting in on the list action (I tend to leave him a certain portion for any given day) and is just the sweetest about crossing these things off, because he knows that is the only way I am going to feel better and productive. 

My other excuse is that I have a problem with feeling that a post has to be perfect, so I tend to ruminate about it in my head for far too long before even attempting to make it a reality. Part of me knows I don't have enough hours in the day to make it as "perfect" as I see it in my head, and to measure up to all those wonderful blog posts I read that are created by other people. Does it bother me that all my "bump" photos are slightly different hues? Yep. How about that in the first two photos, my head is blocking the month so I had to photoshop the month in on the other side? You betcha. But I'm working on getting over these "must be perfect" hurdles as I plunge into motherhood and all it's imperfectness that will come with it. 

So, here it is, the last 22 weeks of a pregnant Kimmy, in photos (just click away!).  

(I kind of get happier as the photos go on, don't I?) 

Joe is the photographer extraordinaire. Most of these photos were taken after me shaking him awake at 7 in the morning before I left for work to take "just one" photo, that then turned into one hundred in order to get one that I was happy with while still telling him I don't think he got a very good angle because there is no way I look that big in real life. Again, poor Joe. 

Looking back, I am so glad we documented what we did. I could have lied to myself and said I was going to take one each week, on the exact same day of the week, but it turns out that once or twice a month was a good amount of documentation for me to see that belly grow. My plan is after this little baby is born, we can take monthly photos of s/he on this calendar. 

I've been keeping a journal since about the ninth week called "Expecting You" that prompts you to write a bit each month about what you've been experiencing, your feelings and thoughts. My plan is to break each of these months down to you in the next several days, including a few notes from the book, and to make these bump photos a bit bigger so you can really appreciate Joe's photography skills in full (I honestly think he's honing his skills as the months go on!). 

First up, February + March! 


May was/will be the busiest May I have ever had.

The view from the design trade show, Sight Unseen, I am working this weekend. 

The view from the design trade show, Sight Unseen, I am working this weekend. 

First, we got back from LA towards the end of April and ran full speed into a weekend of visiting friend's kids, job offers for Joe and looking into two bedrooms on our street after learning we can move even though we had just signed a new lease for our current apartment (as long as it is in our management company). We started a new, intensive, in-home dog training with Gruff to cure his sep angst once and for all, to which I dived in head first (he's already showing progress!). Then we had Mother's Day weekend, with an awesome visit from Mary Sue and friends. Next was traveling to New York for work (where I am now), then directly to Ireland on a slightly spontaneous trip with my sister. After that, two big projects at work will take place; installing a playground and a "tween" room for a community center in Englewood. On Memorial Day weekend, we are moving to a two bedroom directly across the street from us with an incredible lake view, and then we will be hosting a party for some friends at the beach. 

I'm sorry I've left you all (mom) for 6 weeks (sorry, mom) but please (mom) know, I have lots of ideas and you can bet this isn't the end of Days of Doren (mom, please don't stop reading my blog like you threatened). 

I want to document our current apartment, post some photos from LA, and show you a little project we've been working on for the past several months. By that point, I'll also probably have some Ireland photos to share.

But until then (which I hope won't be long), thanks for coming back to hear about how busy I am, as if you aren't yourself. I appreciate you caring, and as they don't say in Ireland, good bye! (Because they're Irish, get it?)



Gruffy and the beach.

McGruff is an introspective soul. When we get to one of the parks on our walks, I let him be "free dog" and take him off the leash. He will usually gallop away, sniff around, do his business, but then almost always runs over to the ledge, sits down and looks out over the water. Our theory is he was a sea captain in another life, and needs this time to reminisce of his life aboard the ship. 

He will then look over his shoulder and wag his tail, making sure I am coming to sit with him. I sit and we dream together for a couple minutes; the most peaceful moments of the day. The best is when Joe is with us, and we three sit together (usually Gruffy in the middle), and I think, "I wonder if McGruff realizes we are a little family and likes it, or does he want us to go away so he can get on with his thoughts and memories?". But the way he leans into one of us and stands up the minute we do makes me think he knows we all belong together. 

Separation anxiety.


Sep. angst. That's what the cool kids shorten it to if you talk about it all the I do. We've been dealing with our sweet adopted dog's sep angst since we got him, and have come to find out that is it very common among shelter dogs but not talked about that much. McGruff is the most docile dog you will ever meet, but once left alone, something switches and he goes out of his mind. We couldn't have known this until we brought him home, but it wouldn't have made a difference either way. His anxiety looks like destruction, and he has fractured his teeth and ripped up his nose + nails by trying to get out of his crate and/or our apartment. He won't relax in his crate and will pant, drool and stand up the entire time. I wanted to share our findings in hope I can pass this on to anyone down the road with the similar problem (I know there are a few of you out there), even though I wouldn't say we have solved it quite yet. Knowing he had the sep angst wouldn't have changed our decision at all in bringing him into our family, but it sure was nice to know other people went through it and came out the other side. 

These are our findings with our one particular dog. Of course, it varies from dog to dog.

The first time we left him alone for thirty minutes. The bone was untouched. 

The first time we left him alone for thirty minutes. The bone was untouched. 

 What doesn't work for us: a flimsy crate that he can escape from in minutes, because in my head it probably looks something like this. Or leaving him out of a crate, thinking the problem is the crate. This resulted in torn up doors and window shades, and no one is really all that happy, including him.                      What works for us: a super, heavy duty crate that is horribly ugly and looks like a doggy prison (we got this one). A padlock may still be necessary, and is definitely necessary with our Houdini of a dog. It sounds like the making of a scary place, but we try to make it happy for him by always feeding him in his crate, giving him treats every time he goes in on his own and generally trying to make a positive environment around the crate as much as we can when it looks like a prision. We always leave the door open when we are home.

  What doesn't work for us: leaving anything near his crate that he can grab onto and pull (evidence above).                                                                                                                                                                   What works for us: keeping his crate in an empty corner without blinds/cords/rugs near by.

Yep, we also duct taped the top shut. 

Yep, we also duct taped the top shut. 

  What doesn't work for us: food/treats in his crate.                                                                                             What works for us: McGruff won't eat when we are gone. I read somewhere in my research that it may be his instincts kicking in, that he needs to save whatever it is in case we don't come back. But we can put the most disgusting, meaty bone in his crate, close the door, and he won't touch it until we come back. Then when we are back, he most definitely wants it. I tried the "you only get this in your crate" thing, and taking it away as soon as I come home, but it hasn't made him want it anymore once we leave. It could be that Gruffy isn't always the most food motivated dog, but I would love to leave him with a Kong full of treats and know that will keep him occupied for at least a little bit. 

  What doesn't work for us: those holistic things like the DAP diffuser, DAP collar, Thundershirt, anti-anxiety oils, etc.  I'm so jealous of people who have success with any of that.                                                         What works for us: straight up meds like doggy Prozac and Xanax. I'm afraid to admit the amount we spent on the holistic anti-anxiety treatments, and nothing seemed to make much of a difference. His anxiety was just too strong. It's still up for debate on the hardcore meds truly working. McGruff has been on Prozac since last June, and we have upped and upped the dosage, and thankfully haven't noticed him behaving any differently when we are around (we didn't want him to be all doped up), but we also haven't noticed him relaxing much more when we leave him. The Xanax seemed to work well, but I'm afraid to rely on this because it is more of a short term solution. So, we are still learning about all of this, and we (and his vet) definitely don't want to keep him on these things for much longer if we don't have to. We worked with a behaviorist for one session and she taught me some things that were great, but at $100/hr, we kept it to just the one session (because we already bought ALL the dog things!). 

 What doesn't work for us: thinking people want to hear about it all the time and totally get it.                  What works for us: this I have learned the hard way and I think the best way to handle this is not to make it a huge part of conversation (even though it is a huge part of your life). I found that not a whole lot of people want to hear about your dog's issues over and over, except for those really sweet and understanding family and friends, who also probably don't want to hear it as much as I made them. When you aren't living it, I can only imagine it is not all that interesting. Our summer consisted of only going places that a dog would be allowed, eating on a lot of patios and inviting our dog over to friend's houses (my instagram is filled with these moments). It became pretty apparent who is open to those activities and who is not, and was an awkward conversation at times (I felt pretty ridiculous saying "Um, could my dog also come over? He's really cute!"). It kind of weeded some non-dog loving people out, but the majority of people were totally awesome and love him as much as we do. Thank you, all you kind friends, family, and co-workers, for making this past year bearable! 

 What doesn't work for us: letting it stress you out.                                                                                        What works for us: this I have learned the hard way, as well. You've probably heard that dogs can sense your stress, and I hope this hasn't contributed in anyway to Gruffy. I was so nervous about leaving him alone in his crate the first, well, many times that my heart would pound on my way home just anticipating what I was walking into. Also, every time I would think of him during the day, I would have a mild panic attack. That wasn't helping anything. What got us through this was the peace of mind that comes with doggy daycare, friends taking care of him and the dog walker (which is a fairly new addition to Team McGruff), and above all, time. We have to build his confidence in being alone, and so leaving him alone is something that we have to do (for our sanity and his). 

McGruff's daycare lunch.

McGruff's daycare lunch.

  What doesn't work for us: thinking he will get over it quickly.                                                                     What works (we hope): I think time is important when it comes to dogs and people getting used to any new routine/person/place/thing. I have to keep reminding myself that we were, and are, still new to him. We don't know how many times he has been abandoned, or what he has gone through in his rough past spent on the streets. We have had him now almost a year, and some people told us that at that year point, something clicks in them and they get more comfortable. Mixing up the length of time he is left alone and building up from one minute, to two minutes, to three, etc. and also, mixing up your routine like grabbing your keys at random times of the day, has helped, but in all honesty, time has been the key factor. I can't wait for him to really trust that we are always, always coming back for him. 

Around here lately.

Our month of February: valentine banner making, laundry, Super Bowl steaks at mom + dad's with a brief visit from our favorite Hudson, a trip to Detroit to celebrate Joe's step-sister and soon to be bro-in-law's engagement with a hockey game and an awesome family party, a successful "Canine Good Citizen" dog training, a new bed for Gruffy, double date ice-skating at Parson's, a ton of walks on the beach and the single picture taken on Joe's surprise birthday night with friends. Not pictured: a lot. But I'm getting a little better. 


Is there a better time to talk about resolutions than the middle of February? 

Probably. But the good news is, I can cross some things off my "100 Small Things" list because we are already 50 some days into 2016. Not a lot of things, but some. I saw this idea on another blog, and while not all of these things are so small, I like the thought of having a list to refer to throughout the year. I also happen to be fond of lists. Here they all are (in no particular order):

1.     100 blog post entries.

2.     Vacation (cruise?) with the hubs + family.

3.    Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.

4.     Complete Joe's Birthday Month.

5.     Visit Katy Wiseman in Columbus, Ohio.

6.     Get wedding photos in album (finally). 

7.     New rug for living room. 

8.    Read 12 books. (.5 down).

9.     Finish "Question Book" with Mo. 

10.  Start planning meals/make dinner three times a week for Joe and with Joe. (I just bought this to hopefully help us).

11.  Make at least five recipes out of our many cookbooks.

12.  Wear an apron while cooking.

13. Revise family cookbook with Linnae and give as gifts for Christmas. 

14.  Cover table with marble paper. 

15.  New chair for living room with ottoman/pouf. 

16.  Visit Mo in LA. 

17.  Paint Aunt Ruth's drawers bright yellow. 

18. Purge closet/start capsule wardrobe. 

19.  Only buy items I love. 

20.  See a hockey game. (DID IT/02.12) 

21.  Go ice skating. (DID IT/02.17) 

22.  Clean out shoe closet for good. 

23. Visit Oregon and see Emily + Sean get married. 

24.  Do two classes on Skillshare; learn from others.

25.  Make handwriting into a font. 

26.  Officially change my name. (This is the biggest one). 

27.  Get ring professionally cleaned. 

28. New glasses for Joe. 

29.  Create a will. 

30. McGruff to do something therapy related at least five times (nursing home, hospital, etc).

31. McGruff to complete CGC course and pass. (HE DID IT!/02.16) 

32. Replace moldings around doors in apartment.

33. Paint the apartment walls white (?).

34. Ask about replacing kitchen floor.

35. Clean car once a week.

36. Visit Traverse City in the summer.

37. Visit the Davies in Grand Rapids.

38. Get Renter’s Insurance.

39. Give up alcohol for lent successfully.

40.  Do all doctors/dentists appointments.

41.  Become a member at a yoga studio.

42.  Try Pilates.

43. Get a library card.

44.  Get in a cleaning routine.

45.  Buy McGruff a real dog bed. (DONE) 

46.  Throw a fun shower for friends at our beach.

47.  Go to the Mullin’s Lake Geneva house.

48. Use Vitamix to make jam.

49.  Write a children’s book about McGruff.

50.  Get a couple’s massage.

51.  Go swimming in the winter.

52.  Upgrade phone.

53. Send flowers to someone randomly.

54.  Figure out air pressure light in car.

55.  Get a new car.

56.  Comment on more blogs.

57.  Clean/purge desk at work.

58. Update I-Pass information.

59.  Have address changed on all items going to my parent’s house.

60.  Do prompted sketches in sketchbook.

61.  Sew elbow patches on winter coat.

62.  Do major purge of kitchen gadgets.

63. Get a parking space.

64.  Print Artifact Uprising wedding book.

65.  Switch out dressers in our bedroom for the beautiful one in storage.

66.  Put aside a couple dollars a week for homeless encounters.

67.  Put aside money each week to give to Zion.

68. Learn all of our neighbor’s names (not just the dog’s names).

69.  Make our balcony a nice place to be this spring/summer.

70.  Finish hardware project on dresser.

71.  Keep working on best make up for my face.

72.  Replace shades that McGruff destroyed.

73. Be in the moment more and think less about what’s next.

74.  Start using an eye cream.

75.  Go to some botanical gardens in the summer.

76.  Less screen time, more doing stuff with my hands.

77.  Remove all my stuff from my parent’s and clean out the closets there.

78.  Make a calendar for the Doren’s for next year.

79.  Invest in a nice robe.

80. Learn how to knit socks.

81.  Switch out lighting in apartment.

82. Practice calligraphy.

83. Shave my legs more in winter.

84. Figure out our health insurance. (DONE!)

85. Get dining chair fixed, or fix it ourselves.

86. Write more letters.

87. Read all of Grandma’s “View from the Pew”.

88. Watch 10 Ted Talks.

89. Go to a Moth Story Hour.

90.  See a live play/musical with Joe.

91.  Take McGruff on long adventures in the warm weather.

92.  Listen to more music at home.

93. Love, love, love and say I love you more.

94.  Continue to eat clean, whole foods as much and as often as I can.

95.  Figure out a spot for Joe’s growing hat collection.

96.  Buy a new purse.

97.  Write down our “Five Year Plan”.

98. Do something special for St Patrick’s Day with Hudson.

99.  Take more weekend trips to see friends and family.

100.  Make a 2017 list. 

I do have one overarching resolution that I hope to keep in mind all year. It all stemmed from this article, a graduation speech by George Saunders from a couple years ago that really resonated with me, especially this quote, "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness." I want to remember to not miss opportunities to be kind this year, or walk away from any situation feeling like I could have been more giving or selfless. My sweet friend, Katie, has a New Year's Resolution party every year, and it was there I wrote it out, and hope to not forget it, this year or any year. 

Joe's Birthday Month.

Joe's birthday is February 28th, which, as you all may recall, is usually the last day of the month. Therefore, he sees February as his month.

I've never met someone who loved birthdays (and half birthdays) more than Joe. Our first date was on his half birthday, and he made sure I knew it. He also remembers other people's half birthdays, like he will randomly spout, "Today is your dad's/cousin's/coworker's half birthday! I better text him." When I laugh at that, his argument is, but who doesn't love their birthday? Good point. 

The first birthday we were dating also happened to be his golden birthday, which if his birthday is usually a big deal, this was a REALLY big deal. I made him a calendar for the month of February, with each day planned out. He hung this on the wall of his bedroom, told everyone about it and consulted it daily: 



It was so fun for me to do. I tend to like to plan, so this was a dream, planning something fun for every day! I had the notes correspond to each other, we had a great wedding at the beginning of the month and a visit to Traverse City. The month ended on a fun bar crawl to all our favorite spots with a lot of our favorite friends.

The next year looked something like this, with the notes washi-taped on the right side: 



It started on Valentine's day this year because 1) I waited until the last minute and 2) I wanted to include the weekend that his family was going to surprise him here in Chicago. That was a great weekend; they surprised him at an Ethiopian restaurant near my apartment, with masks that had Joe's face on it, so he didn't recognize them immediately. We stayed at a hotel downtown, visited the Lithuanian museum, and had lots of food and drinks. I suppose the other notable event this month was that he PURPOSED to me on his birthday on the steps of Galway Bay, which is where we hung out for the first time/had our first date-ish, and first kiss. The party afterwards at Guthries, which I had planned for his birthday, turned into our engagement party. It was fantastic. 

As far as visuals go, it goes downhill from here, guys. The next year, two months after getting married, I wasn't sure I was going to do the whole calendar thing. But my heart was still in it, and I knew Joe still was just as excited about his birthday month as ever (though he told me I really didn't need to do it again), and it was a fun way to break up the winter. So hence, the roughly hand written, chicken scratched, calendar over the calendar we get every year from Joe's dad and step-momma: 



This was the year of Joe having WEEKENDS OFF (that schedule rocked) and his 30th. The biggest day was his surprise day/party in Traverse City. We had many stops during the day for food and drink (Traverse City is a mecca for restaurants), and his friends Joe + Chelsea hosted the evening portion at their incredible house in the woods. Their roommate happened to work for Short's Brewing Company, so the fridge was fully stocked, there was a bonfire and some late night piano playing and dancing. It was one to remember.

Which brings us to this year. Remember how I said it is going downhill? 



My mom gave us a chalkboard calendar this year, so basically she made it really easy for me. Usually we just use it for family member's birthdays (as you will see people's names on certain days), but it's playing double duty this month. 

I can't fill you all in on the surprises and the gifts, since Joe reads this, but I am very excited this year for our Detroit trip for his step-sister's engagement party, and a couple double/triple dates we have going on. Gulliver's is a great place by us that is basically a restaurant/antique store, so we hope to make it back there and, of course, Galway Bay, where this whole relationship/marriage started.



Thanks for everyone's words, thoughts, hugs and prayers during these last two weeks since my grandma passed away. She was my dad's mom, and my last living grandparent.

photo by Mae Stier -

photo by Mae Stier -

For those who don't know the story, she passed suddenly on Friday, the 22nd at 11:35pm. She had a brain hemorrhage while playing cards with friends around 1pm, and she couldn't be revived. The doctor said the blood was filling her brain quickly, and Grammoo had a DNR, do not resuscitate, if she stopped breathing. All of her in-town children, grandchildren and family were in the hospital room with her and listened to her last breath. 

It seems like with anything so sudden (I mean, we just had dinner with her the previous Sunday and all was normal, for gosh sakes), it will take time before it seems real. On my way to have dinner at my aunt's house the day before the wake, I was running through my head who will be there. I thought, "And Grammy will be there," because she was always there, whatever event it may be, first to arrive and last to leave. And she was there this time, just in a different way. 

Even under these circumstances, it was so nice to see all the family. Everyone is spread apart, so the times that almost everyone makes it back to Chicago are rare. Grammoo would have loved it, and I kept seeing her spirit at the gatherings that took place over the two days of her services, flitting about, chatting and keeping herself busy cleaning up with all of her favorite people. 

There is some peace to find in it all. She was almost 86, and a maternal force if you have ever known one. She was so, so proud of the family she created, and we all think did not have one regret. She had her wits about her until the end, lived independently and worked part time up until a couple years ago. And she was so happy. On the Sunday we had dinner with her, she just couldn't get over how lucky she was. All five of her children called that weekend, to either chat or invite her over. I know she made daily visits to people who were not so fortunate with their families, so she felt blessed every single day. 

Photo by Mae Stier -

Photo by Mae Stier -

When I called her to ask if she would let me wear her wedding dress for my wedding, she seemed pretty pleased. I spoke to my Aunt Sue first, as her daughter, who passed away at 24, always had the dream of wearing Grammoo's dress down the aisle. I wanted to live that out for Julie, and for Grammy, and for myself. While Grammoo wasn't always overflowing with her excitement in person, she definitely expressed herself through written word. I like to think this is where I get it from. I received multiple, multiple letters letting me know how this is a God-thing, and how happy she was that I will be wearing her 66-year-old wedding dress. I was so happy, too (and not just because it fit; I was pretty nervous about that). Isn't making your grandmother proud what it is all about? 

As much as we all wanted a few more years with our Grammoo, I like to think she saw all she needed to see and will enjoy watching the rest play out from a different perspective.

My dad wrote the most beautiful counter-melody to Amazing Grace for our family to preform at the church service after her burial. Here is the audio of us practicing the night before. You can hear Amazing Grace being sung in the background behind dad's words. My cousin video-recorded it, which I will upload once I receive it: 

An amazing life / one of sacrifice / mother, friend and wife/ our Grammoo

Lived her life in faith / spent her days serving others / God's work indeed

Though she's gone from us / she lives on in us / always there for us / our Grammoo

In this family/ her love grows ever stronger / shines like the sun

Then came this part, sung to the tune of Amazing Grace:

The grace that brought Delphine to us / has come to take her home

We sense her still / in all we do / and know she's not alone


Let me tell you a bit about this man. 

Joe has ideas. His brain is swimming with them and then one bubbles to the surface, he voices it and doesn't usually stop until we do that very thing. They are usually, almost always, fun ideas. 

He made us Mai Thais last night. He made us a lot of Mai Thais last night. A great idea. 

He has been going to see all of the films that are in the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards. I have been able to tag along to a few. Another excellent idea. 

Lithuanian bed-making. But he probably wouldn't call that an idea, he would call that his art.

His next idea is to rent a cabin in some northern woods and start watching the Best Picture winners from the beginning of the Oscars (he's on a bit of an Oscars kick right now). We wouldn't finish, but we could start there and finish at some point in our lifetimes.

One of the first times we hung out, his idea was to make pasta together. He ended up making a feast for my roommates and I. What a way to a girl (not to mention her roommate's) heart. 

The thing about Joe is that I feel these ideas won't ever stop, and will keep getting better and better as we get older. I'm plan to participate and encourage these ideas to keep flowing forever. 

The first dinner we made together. August 2012. Babies. 

The first dinner we made together. August 2012. Babies. 

This picture was taken in much warmer times. Michigan 2015. Love him a lot.

This picture was taken in much warmer times. Michigan 2015. Love him a lot.

He's a Stafflabherdmuteshund.

Yep, McGruff's a pure mutt. 

L to R Mini Wire Haired Dachshund, American Stafford Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Alaskan Malamute, German Shepard, and a sweet little mix of all

His DNA results came back on Monday, and we were super surprised to see that there is no Basset Hound in his lineage. We were under the assumption he was a "Basset Retriever", which he totally resembles if you Google that term. 

McGruff knew his lineage all along and let us call him whatever we wanted. What a patient guy. 

This test was an incredibly thoughtful Christmas present from my manager. You can find more information about the test at


Whenever my two closest Chicago college girlfriends/roommates and I get together, it almost always results in a sleepover. It's just what we do, along with eating things that aren't good for us, drinking fancy drinks, non-stop chatting and passing out real late. This time, Katie hosted. McGruff was welcomed and basically the mayor of girl's night (picture evidence below).

For some reason, I felt like fully documenting it this time because I have a slight feeling that these days are numbered. There are bound to be a days coming soon when the sleepovers can't be as spontaneous or easy, and other factors get in the way to complicate it all.  I hope that it never gets difficult to make nights like this happen, and that we always make time for "boob" champagne punch, making questionable nail decisions after too much of said punch and terrible early 00's movies. 

One of my many resolutions this year (will share all soon) is to make sure people know I love them, soooo - cue beginning of love fest, feel free to check out if you think this is gross - Shannon and Katie, I love all of our sharing, laughing, and reminiscing. I learn so much from you and I cherish our friendships. Thanks for putting in the time and effort it takes to be such good friends. I wish every weekend could include a sleepover with you two, so let's just move ourselves, boys and pets back to Swiss Chalet, okay? 

A typical, gloomy day walk.

Our typical, three-times-a-day, walk looks something like this; running around on the beaches surrounding our home with Gruffy on patrol, sniffing everything and sticking his tongue out occasionally.  

The two female owners of McGruff's day care call him "sexy man" when he comes in. It's a little uncomfortable, kind of funny and I don't really see it (he's just our baby!), but those last two photos of him make him look super manly and body builder-esque, so I guess I get it a little...? Perhaps he's also a womanizer at Bark Bark Club, but that's something no mom needs to know. 

We really love living on the lake. It's refreshing every time we leave our apartment to see the big expanse of water right there, even in the cold. 

And yes, he's totally humiliated wearing those booties. Just don't let his girlfriends at Bark Bark Club see him sporting purple balloons on his feet.

Before Christmas is gone.

I love Christmas. Maybe just as much as the next person, but now that our anniversary also falls within the season, December seems even more magical. Christmas caroling, crafting and cookies (so many cookies) were abundant this year. 

My sister came home for a nice, extended period of time and stayed with us in the city for two nights. Joe made us a seafood stew one night, and all three of us fell asleep in a row on the couch to our "winter break" obsession, Making a Murderer. We always have something we can't stop talking about it, and this show was it. Mo and I complain that we don't ever seem to have enough downtime when she comes home, but luckily this time there were some good + quiet together moments thanks to a snowstorm and no real New Years Eve plans this year. Perfection.

Just a couple shots of Christmas around here before it all comes down. Quite a few wedding gifts helped us to feel festive, and repurposed wedding decorations from last year worked very well into the vibe. I think maybe I'll get rid of the evergreens once they have completely disintegrated; I love the greenery too much.

Joe and I got our first Christmas tree on our anniversary, December 6, at a great tree lot in Evanston called Bob's Tree Farm. All we know is our tree came from Michigan, it was only $20, and Bob loved McGruff. You can see our first tree, albeit undressed, in the background of one of the photos below.  

Part of my New Years Resolution since, maybe, 2012 was to start this blog. I want it to be a keeper (or possibly a dump) of our photos, as well as a way to share with our favorite people that aren't here for everyday life. I also hope I will improve on my writing and photography (it's a new camera, ya'll), but besides all that, I'm not sure what I want this spot to be. The main goal is for this to be a fun little place on the internet to come, and maybe someday, I'll look back at this post and think "remember when I used ya'll in a sentence?" 

Miss you already, Christmas, but looking forward to what 2016 has to offer. Until next year.