Growth in 2017

The last two years were hard.
But hard is good, because it causes people to evolve.

In 2016 I learned to be brave.
I learned to be brave and push through, and my bravery gave me tremendous strength. The strength & bravery I found in 2016 carried me through 2017.

In 2017 I learned to grow.
I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

Let’s have a look at the highlights (and let’s be honest, the low lights) of 2017 before I reveal what my mantra for 2018 is going to be.


We were pregnant since late October and I wanted to formally announce the pregnancy after the first of the year, so late December of 2016 I sent out pregnancy announcements to all of my family with a Christmas card.

January 3rd I announced on social media that we were expecting a baby in late June/early July.

Following the pregnancy announcement, I began moving to Petoskey.

We officially picked two names.

Late January I had my anatomy scan and found out the gender of our baby.



After the move was well underway, I began some work in transforming the spare bedroom into a nursery.

Mid February I had a maternity shoot.

On February 19th I left behind 22’s wishes and welcomed 23 with a big celebration…

That celebration was our gender reveal party. We shared with family and friends via a cake that my mom made for the party that we would be having a girl.



Due to some issues with the gender party, and many people showing their true colors, I realized it was time to begin a social media cleanse to start removing the toxicity from my life.

It took a few months, mostly because I was pregnant and it was winter, but I finally finished moving to Petoskey and let my lease go in Conway.

On March 17th we brought Merlin, our border collie, home from an Amish farm near Grand Rapids.



At 28 weeks pregnant I decided there was no better time to visit my BFF in Florida, so for the second time ever, I put some stuff in a bag, drove to Detroit, and caught a flight to Panama City for a week. It was literally the best time. We sat on the couch for almost the entire week playing a game we have both come to love called Stardew Valley.

Shortly after returning from Florida, Nick and I had Easter with all of his family in Traverse City.

Just a few months from Kinsley’s birth I finally got around to ordering and building her crib and crafting a few unique pieces for her nursery.



After enough pregnancy troubles and a difficult decision, I decided to leave my Home Decor Department Manager position at Lowe’s.

I got to see my step sister get married to the love of her life in Tecumseh, Michigan.

I finally got around to sending out baby shower invites.

Traded in LaFawnduh the Ford Fusion for Pearl, our new JEEP Cherokee. (Thanks to a fellow named Jim at Brown Motors, who was MOST helpful.)



At 37 weeks, on June 11th, I had my baby shower at a beautiful church in Cheboygan with family and friends.

We found out the news that Kinsley had a one vessel cord, so the doctors ordered some extra tests, which included these lovely stress tests, all of which we passed.

Miss Kinsley Estelle June made her debut to the world on June 25th, 2017 at 7:37 pm at McClaren Hospital in Petoskey, MI. She was 6lbs, 11oz, and 19.5 inches long.

Minutes after Kinsley was born, it was determined that something wasn’t right with her anatomy. She was taken to the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan where it was confirmed that she was born with a rare congenital defect called Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) / Esophageal Atresia (EA).

We traveled to GR the next day after I was discharged from the hospital, where we received the most helpful support, humbling kindness, and amazing medical care for our daughter. DeVos is such a special place. I could not be more grateful that she ended up there. Every occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, nurse practitioner, neonatologist, ENT, and surgeon who had their hands in her care was simply the best. We are forever indebted to DeVos and their team, as well as the nurses at McClaren who saved Kinsley’s life.



As it turned out, Nick and I would end up spending a lot of time in Grand Rapids. 6.5 weeks, to be exact. Between our visits at the hospital with Kinsley and her doctors, Nick decided to help me experience the town while we were there, since it’s where he grew up. I kept track of a list of places we went (in no particular order) that I’d never been before.


+Red Robin

+Omlette Shoppe
(my favorite restaurant in GR)

+Paleos Italian Restaurant

+Firehouse Subs
(umm their italian is to die for)


+Olive Garden
(a traverse city favorite)

+Twisted rooster

+Vitales at Comstock Park

+Panera Bread

+Cold Stone Creamery
(I got cake batter something or other)


+Dunkin’ Donuts

+Bagel Beanery

+Tim Horton’s


+AMC Theater (saw The House)

+Celebration Cinema (saw Spider-Man)

+Barnes & Noble


+Atwater Brewery

+City Flats

+7 Monks


+Flat Lander’s Barstillery
(holy shit their fries!!)



+Grand Rapids museum

+Downtown Grand Rapids

+Frederick Meijer Gardens

+John Ball Zoo

We traveled to Elk Rapids for Harbor Fest as well.

I also finally got to meet Nick’s sister Schae, who lives in Arizona but flew in for a few weeks to see us and attend to other family members in their time of need as well. (bless her heart)

We also came home for a minute to attend my mom’s and step dad Don’s wedding.

Finally on August 9th, Kinsley was discharged from the hospital.

We got to do some normal family things which felt so good after 47 long days in the hospital with her.



In early September I started my final prerequisite for the nursing program: A&P.

Nick and I ventured over to Friske’s Orchard, this place he’s been raving about since we met.

Enjoyed a few last warm days in the remaining ‘summer’ sun.

And last but not least, we celebrated Nick, Chelsea and Schae’s birthdays with this awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made.



I started the month out swallowing some major frogs. We had to get the medical bills from Kinsley being at DeVos organized and taken care of. Even being home for 2 months at this point, I was still adjusting to the ‘new mom’ and ‘household secretary/appointment scheduler’ roles.

We had oddly warm temps this fall, which we took full advantage of. Nick and I took Kinsley to Pond Hill Farm for some family photos and fun.

We were also able to make it to Uncle Frank’s Orchard for our pumpkins.

And we took the opportunity to go to Tequamenon Falls before the colors were officially gone.

Kinsley was Raggedy Anne for her first Halloween.

We also cannot forget that my dear Sparky Berlin turned 2.

And I also started a part time job, one to two shifts per week at Marshall’s. (they got me this Christmas present, so it’s not all bad.



This was a month jam-packed with appointments in Grand Rapids.

I got the foundation to help us with one of the trips, and they were able to pay for a king suite hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub (best decision I ever made).

Kinsley had her second and last (so far) esophageal dilation.

Nick and I finally got to go to our local Beard’s Brewery, which is something we’ve been trying to do since before Kinsley was born.

Kinsley had her first Thanksgiving!

At her first Thanksgiving I got a 4 generation photo, which means more to me than most things.



My A&P class would end mid December, so I took a weekend to get completely caught up in order to lock in the possibility of a good grade.

When everything was all said and done and the grades were finally posted I ended the class with an A (by .03%). Which is something I’m extremely proud of.

Kinsley finally made sufficient progress at feeding therapy, got her feeding tube removed and started using a special bottle. By the last week of December, she was cleared to start baby food at feeding therapy.

December was full of celebration; Kinsley turned 6 months old on her first Christmas.

Nick decided it was time to get me a promise ring, which he gave me on Christmas Eve.

We started our own Christmas Eve tradition.

My three absolute best friends made it all to the same place at the same time to spend an afternoon of baby snuggling, cookie baking and visiting together.

And on the very last day of the year, we had a family dinner with my mom and step dad Don, and nick’s mom and step dad Jim. It was a perfect way to end a year full of family times.

Now, if you’re still along for the ride, or if you just skipped to this part, we’re done recounting everything that happened in 2017, and we can move forward to 2018.


As I mentioned before we took a trip down memory lane, in 2017 I learned that life can change drastically, and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

In 2018 I’m going to remember “I have the power to create change.”
And it’s going to be my mantra.

It only makes sense that my 2018 mantra would evolve from my 2017 year. We were stretched, tested, pushed, and put through so much. And from that we grew. And grew, and grew, and grew.

And now that that’s all finished, we have to keep that in mind with 2018 and continue to grow through what we go through, because hardship and unexpected changes are inevitable in life. We also have to make sure that we realize another thing heading into 2018 which is that we have the power to create change.

We’re going through things now that stemmed from the uncontrolled, and we can only grow from things we can’t control, but some of the strain caused us to make bad habits, and fall into other crappy circumstances, and now it’s time to recognize that those things have to change, and we are the ones with the power to do it.

With our experiences with Kinsley being born, and the resulting financial hardships we endured and the debt we adopted, we need to go into 2018 with a mindset that we have the power to create change, to squash the debt and do what needs to be done to prevent further financial hardship.

Last year I learned to grow through what I go through. This year I’m reminding myself that I have the power to create change. And I’m already on the right path with the to-do’s I’ve completed, the frogs I’ve swallowed, and the changes I’ve committed to in the last week. But all those specifics will have to wait for another blogpost coming soon. 🙂


Grab 2018 by the balls and make it your bitch. I’m gonna.

Cheers to 2018!

Sweet Girl.

Somehow my tiny 6 pound 11 ounce NICU baby is going to be 6 months old in exactly 2 weeks.

Somehow my TEF baby has been tube free for 4 whole days now that she’s doing oral feeds and taking a whole bottle now.

Somehow my silly girl has discovered her tongue and her voice and her feet and hands and can lift her head and grab things and sit up and roll over and play and laugh and sleep through the night in her crib.

In the blink of an eye.

I’m literally shocked. Four months ago (plus three days) we brought Kinsley home from the NICU and our next chapter began, and now we’re turning pages almost weekly.

People really aren’t over exaggerating when they tell you how quickly the time will go by, how fast your baby will grow, and how short each phase lasts. They aren’t kidding when they say you’re going to miss this. My sweet baby is so many things right now, and I want to recognize them here, and hope that 10 years from now she’ll still be everything she is right now, plus even more.

I can’t stop the time from passing so quickly, but I can make sure that while it does I am teaching her the most important things about living. So here’s my first #dearKinsley post.

Dear Kinsley,

Please stay loud.

May your coos and screeches continue in the form of words heard. Voice your opinion. Laugh out loud. Be joyful and thankful and happy and never stop talking about things that are good.

Please stay sweet.

May you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar- not that you’ll want flies, but regardless. Smile. Use kindness as your secret weapon. Don’t say mean things. Always say what you mean. Words are powerful but powerful is great when it’s used for good.

Please stay curious.

May your eyes stay filled with wonder and curiosity toward everything in this world. Ask questions. Seek answers. Learn something new every day and never stop because the world truly is your oyster and knowledge is power.

Please stay strong.

May your strength overshadow any obstacle in front of you. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Push forward. Life is hard and I’m here to tell you it will only get harder, but you can always lean on me and I will help you find your strength if you think you’ve lost it.

Please stay true to you.

May you grow and learn and with time find yourself, who you are and what you love. Embrace you. LOVE you. There’s nothing more important in the world than to nourish the roots of who you ARE. You are beautiful inside and out and self love FIRST will get you wherever you need to be.

Please keep growing.

May you continue to challenge yourself and push for progress. Set goals. Achieve them. If you fail, try again because failure IS NECESSARY since it helps you grow, and besides, success is so much sweeter when you have to work for it.

And please keep in mind…

No mountain is too high. No sea too wide.

Hard work breeds rewarding results.

That boy you think you love, he’s probably not worth it.

Believe in yourself ALWAYS.

Chase your dreams no matter how out of reach they may seem.

Put yourself first when you need to.

If you fall down 100 times, stand up 101.

You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to.

Sometimes I may not take your side, but I will always do what’s best for you.

I will love you unconditionally, no matter what.




Kinsley Estelle June 🌸

I want to share a piece of writing that means more to me on this day than any other words have in my life:
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”  Ecclesiastes 11:5

I have no understanding, and there is no logic to what I feel, but if there is anything I am certain of, it is that she is ‘the work of God, the maker of all things.’

Welcome to the world, beautiful baby girl.

Kinsley Estelle June Hoebeke
6lbs 11oz
19.5 in long


What you need will find you.

For some reason this morning I decided to take a little journey back in time using my Instagram feed. If you’re close to me you know how much I love taking pictures, and even if you’re not, you only have to be one of my followers to know what an Instagram whore I am. Contrary to belief, I don’t post these photos for anyone but myself.

A lot of people use Instagram to promote popular brands or mainstream labels, but for me Instagram is like a diary, a way to quickly blog something that’s just happened with a photo and caption so I can revisit that slice of my life at a later time.

Trust me, it works really well. I got a taste of just how well this morning.

I had just taken the dog outside, it was our second time out since 5 am, and I was really grumpy. I was tired. I was annoyed, ‘how does he have to poop again?!‘ I kept saying over and over again in my mind.

But we got outside, and we walked for a while, and when we got to this little field that we visit sometimes behind the association we live in, I just kept looking at all the tiny daisies and how nice they look in this field and I started feeling sort of strange.

I started feeling really grateful.

I was out there, letting this little dog drag me around through these weeds, but at least they were pretty weeds, and at least he’s a sweet, cute little guy, and at least I’m well enough to be out here in these weeds breathing this air and standing on this soft ground, looking out at these apartments I’ve come to really like the past six months.

A year ago I don’t know if I could say these things. I don’t know if I could look at all this with the positive perspective that I have now. One year ago I was a completely different person, an extremely unhappy person, pretending to have it together, and I was in a totally different, miserable place.

When we got back into the apartment I sat down and pulled up my Instagram feed just to see what exactly I was doing, to the day, a year ago. I found these two photos, among several others, that mark the early summertime period we’re in now, 365 days ago.

It’s hard for me to look at these photos.

To someone else it looks like I was reading Game of Thrones at the beach during the day, and snuggling my kitty in my comfy bed at night. But I know better than that.

I was extremely depressed. My close friends knew it and they kept telling me that I should talk to someone, I should see a doctor and get help trying to take care of it. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to be normal and okay and I wanted to be able to figure it out myself, on my own, like everything else in my life. I wanted to feel in control.

I was trying so hard, but the longer I waited to see someone the worse it got, and the more out of control things became. I never ended up seeing a doctor. Instead I wound up pregnant, which was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, even if I didn’t realize it then.

Last summer was a scary time for me. It was dark and exhausting. I was drowning but I wanted to be the one to pull myself to safety, not realizing that sometimes you can’t do it- you need help. I can look back at the photos from my Instagram feed during that time and know exactly what I was going through. I can remember exactly how I felt and the pain that I was in like it was yesterday.

But I haven’t felt like that in several months (the first few months of my pregnancy were really terrible, as bad as the summer was, because we were in such a pickle and just couldn’t grasp what was happening, but we finally did and since then everything turned around). I’m so thankful for that. It was like becoming pregnant gave me a totally different perspective on life, and gave me the strength I needed to pull my head out of the water I was drowning in.

Friends of mine have told me that they haven’t seen me this happy in a really long time, maybe since high school. I know that every day I wake up feeling okay is a good day, and I rarely have bad days anymore. I’m glad I kept going, and got to see things turn around in my life. I’m not saying everyone who feels depressed should get pregnant, but you should definitely keep going, because some way, some how what you need WILL find you. If you’re struggling, just keep going. Everything I went through was worth it.

Here’s why: It might be a strange thing to say, but I’m so grateful for that hard time I went through, because it really helps me appreciate how amazing my life is turning out to be now. I don’t feel sad every day anymore. I don’t feel like sleeping every second because I don’t know how to deal with the next several hours. I don’t hate where I’m at and what I’m doing. I’m not so distracted by how much I’m hurting that I can’t notice things like daisies in a field. I don’t feel like I have to pretend to smile, I just do it- without thinking.

Maybe that’s what I’m most grateful for. The chance to finally smile, and feel like things are exactly right.

The more I think about it, even when I’m grumpy in a field and the dog is pulling me through the mud and I’m panting and annoyed, I realize that things are still hard, there are still struggles in my life and times when things don’t go according to plan. Things are not perfect or easy by any means, and once this baby is born things will only get harder, but I’m still grateful. No matter how hard it is, I am grateful and I’m genuinely happy. And that’s how I know I’m better; that’s how I know things are exactly like they should be right now.

Everyone deserves this feeling. So if you’re in a tough place, just keep going. What you need will find you. It found me.

oh honey

Nick didn’t know that I called in to work today, so when he came home around 11:30 for his lunch break he was a little shocked to find me at home making eggs, sausage and fruit salad.

I heard the door open at the bottom of the stairs so I turned John Mayer down a couple clicks and walked over to the stairs. Nick took his coat off and handed me a card that came from the vet regarding the loss of his 12 year old Belgian Shepherd, Ares. “It’s a really nice card,” he said.

I opened it and read a few of the notes inside. “That is a really nice card,” I said and I set it down on the counter. He hugged me. Noticing I was in a long sleeve shirt and underwear he said, “You didn’t go to work today?”

I told him I was in a lot of pain from moving the last few days and decided to take a vacation day. He kissed me and sat down at the table.

“Do you want some eggs?” I asked.

I made him a plate of waffles and strawberries and brought over the whipped cream and syrup. When the eggs and sausage were done I scooped some out of the pan onto his syrupy plate and sat down with my own next to him. “I like John Mayer,” I said as Emoji Of A Wave started playing. I took a bite of my eggs.

“I like him too. Did you put that seasoning in the eggs?”

“Yeah I think it’s really good.”

He agreed and asked me what my plans were for the day. I told him my ideas, and when he finished his brunch and swallowed a few gulps of juice he put the cup down in front of me and said I could have the rest. I told him he had some syrup on his chin and he wiped it with a napkin and asked, “did I get it?” I nodded and smiled.

“I gotta go, baby,” he said as he stood up from his chair. He set his dishes in the sink and then put his coat back on and kissed me. “I love you, thanks for lunch” he said, and then he turned to the cat and rubbed her belly while playfully telling her how ferocious she is.

He picked her up and put her on his chest, her front legs over his shoulder. He rubbed her head and gave her kisses before putting her down and saying to me again, “I love you, baby.”

“I love you, too,” I said. And then he walked down the stairs and returned to work.

I remained seated in the chair for a few minutes after he’d left, just sitting there wrapped in a blanket in my underwear with just-dried-shower-hair that I hadn’t even brushed yet, smiling like an idiot in the dining room, our messy kitchen behind me.

I didn’t care, and he didn’t care either. The longer I sat there the luckier I felt.

I thought about the last half hour, and I felt lucky that he wasn’t mad I called into work. He chose to trust that I’m doing what’s right for my body and the baby. He chose to focus on me feeling well instead of the 8 hours taken away from my paycheck this week.

I felt lucky that he looked at me the same way he would have if I were in my favorite outfit with makeup on and neat hair. Instead of teasing me about having frizzy unkept hair, no bra on, and annoying pregnancy acne, he just looked at me, not all the rest, and I feel so lucky that I can be comfortable exactly as I am in front of him. I’m not hair and makeup to him, I’m me, and he is him.

I felt lucky that he took interest in my plans for the day, and expressed gratitude for the food I made him. I felt lucky that he snuggled my cat, whom I also love so much. I felt lucky that he wasn’t stressed about the mess in the house from the rest of the stuff we moved in the past couple days and haven’t been able to put away yet.

I felt lucky that he told me how much he loved me before he went back to work. I realized that I feel lucky because I am. I’m so lucky that I get to build this life with someone who teaches me everyday to focus my attention on the important things in life, and to expend less energy on all the stuff that doesn’t matter.