2015: a brief reflection.

It's hard to believe that the end of another year is upon us already. The first six months of the year absolutely dragged, but the last six months just flew by for me. It's crazy that I'm sitting in my bed, my two children beside me (the little is asleep; the big is still talking and trying to hang on until midnight), reflecting on another year gone.

Overall, this year has been more challenging than I expected it to be. I was hopeful that this year would be a bright spot in my life, but it honestly wasn't as bright as it could've been. My personal life was hard, which makes everything else hard. However, it was a good year, one where I saw personal growth and had a lot of great times.

Most people don't really know, but I took an interim assistant director position at work back in the spring and have been very, VERY busy in the office since then. I have enjoyed the challenge immensely, though, and have learned so much. My interim role has inspired me to go back to school and to find a way to finally start my master's degree in 2016 so I can work my way up through the higher education ranks. It took awhile to find a new balance, but I did find it and have enjoyed my new responsibilities.

The brightest spot of the year was my kids (not sure anyone is surprised by that). It's been a challenge with JJ because of his ADHD and developmental challenges, but we have found a balance with medication and a great IEP plan. We are fortunate to have a great support system, lots of patience, and people who believe in him (besides me, of course) - which has made all the difference in the world. JJ has grown by leaps and bounds this year, and 1st grade is going better than ever. I am so proud to be his mom and to see him overcome all of these obstacles; he is so smart and funny!

Mia has grown so much this year, too; it's insane how grown she is now! She started walking in February (and running soon after), talking phrases/short sentences during the summer, and she discovered this week that she can take her own clothes off (and choose not to put them back on). That girl has personality for days, too, lemme tell ya. She is my shining star, my diva, my mini me. I can't believe she'll be 2 next weekend.

I had all of these grand plans for 2015, but a lot of them didn't happen - and that's OK. I've spent the holiday break from work resetting my mind and preparing for the new year, and I can honestly say that I'm ready for it. I came up with 10 goals that I want to achieve in 2016, but these are really more like lifestyle changes I want to make and stick to as the years go on:

Bring it, 2016. I'm ready.
A big thing happening in the new year is that I'll be 30(!), and it's a huge milestone for me personally. I want to start my new age decade on the right foot, so this year will be about recentering, refocusing, and enjoying life. It's easy to get caught up in drama and feelings and the past, and I am determined to let a lot of that go so I can find true happiness again. I'm starting the 21 Day Fix on Monday to get myself back into shape, along with Couch to 5K; that's just one step in my journey to a happier, better me. 

I learned a lot about myself in 2015 and pushed some boundaries, but I want to do even more in 2016. I am genuinely excited for the new year and can't wait to see what it has in store! My word for the year: unstoppable.
Happy New Year from me and the rainbow!


When there's a hole in your heart at Christmas.

I really don't mean to be all down in the dumps on Christmas, because this is one of the best holidays of the year. It's actually my favorite holiday. It's also the holiday that seems to hurts the most emotionally, because it is a constant reminder that there is one missing from our holiday gathering.

I am a very lucky woman. I have a wonderful family, fantastic parents, a place to go for the holidays, the means to provide a Christmas for our children. But I also have a child who is no longer living, and sometimes, that trumps everything. This will be my fourth Christmas since Devon died, and I honestly can't believe that I've made it that many Christmases. That first Christmas after his death, I felt so empty, so lost, so angry. I was so mad that my son was in Heaven and not in my arms, that I had to experience such a debilitating and life-altering loss. That was the only Christmas in my life that I absolutely hated.

As the years have gone by, the pain has lessened - but the hole is still there. There should be three sets of gifts, three stockings, three kids trying to sneak a peek at their presents, three kids on our family Christmas card. It becomes glaringly obvious during the holiday season that there is a little person missing from my life, a little person who never even got to experience his first Christmas - his mommy's favorite holiday.

To fill that hole, we adopt an angel from one of the local angel trees and buy the presents for that child that Devon will never get. Doing so has helped me cope with his loss, because it makes me feel good to give back to someone who may not have had a Christmas if the kids and I hadn't bought presents for him or her. It does not replace him, by any means, but it does help.

So on this day, our fourth Christmas without him, I want to say this: I miss my son. You all will see pictures of me and my two beautiful, amazing, wonderful living children, and you will see my smile and my joy - because they truly bring me joy and love that I never imagined could happen. But on the inside, I will be shedding tears throughout the day because I miss Devon so terribly much. I always wish he was here, but I especially wish he was here on a day like today, a day that means so much to me personally.

To all the parents out there who celebrate Christmas and are missing a little one today, please know that you're not alone in your grief. Whether you're vocal about it like me, or you choose not to say anything due to the pain, know that I'm thinking about you and sending you love and hugs. I hope your day is still magical, still wonderful, still gives you a reason to smile.

I love you, sweet boy. Merry Christmas in Heaven. I know it will be the most magical experience. <3 p="">



My dear, sweet Devon,

Happy Third Birthday in the heavens, my baby boy! I cannot believe it's been three years since you came into this world sleeping, your sweet face and head full of hair putting a very tearful smile on my face. Even though it took a few hours for Mommy to hold you for the first time, I hope you know that I will never, ever forget the first time I laid eyes on you. You were so beautiful, and I'm sure you still are!

Goodness. Three. When I really stop and think about it, I can't believe it's been that long since you came and went so peacefully. I am trying very hard not to be sad, but the truth is, I'm still more than heartbroken that you are in heaven and not with me. I know that you are in great company up there and that there is no better place you could be...but still. I will always (selfishly) wish that you were here with me.

I imagine that, like your brother and sister, you are a very active little boy - almost out of your toddler years! You must still have all that hair, along with the same green eyes that your big brother grew into. Even though I never got to see you open your eyes, I dream of you with green eyes. How is it up there? Are there lots of fluffy clouds for you to bounce around on, lots of cool hiding places for you and your friends to play Hide and Seek with? I hope you get to have a big slice of chocolate cake with all of your angel friends that you've met and befriended up there, along with all of the family members who, I'm sure, are doing such an amazing job raising you. Be sure to give all of them a big hug and kiss from your mommy.

I tried really hard not to cry as I write this, but I'm totally crying now. I just miss you so much, Devon. I feel like I've written the same type of letter over and over again, but I'm just writing what I feel in my heart. A piece of me will always be with you, and I pray that you do not forget me during the time that we are separated - because I will never forget you. Your very brief life had such a huge impact on my own, even after three years.

I am so grateful for you, for the joy you brought me for those few short months that I got to have you with me on the inside, for the love I was able to share with you before you went to heaven. I hope you remember my heart beat, my voice, my touch, and that they are a part of you until you and I can be together again.

I miss you every second of every day. That will never change. But today, I will remember you with all the love and smiles I can possibly muster, because your memory deserves that. Later on, I will drop your big brother off to first grade (can you believe it?!), and I will drop your sister off to daycare. Then I will come home and make your cupcakes. Tonight, your brother, sister, and I will sing you Happy Birthday and blow out your candle, and I will surely cry as we all share the cupcakes that I so desperately wish you were eating with us. I hope that you're watching over us as sing to you, that you can hear us all the way up there, and that you can feel the endless love that we have for you.

Happy Three, my sweet baby boy. I love you more than I will ever be able to put into words, and I hope you have the most amazing birthday in heaven. You deserve that, and so much more.

Mommy <3 p="">


Five adults + three kids + one photographer = amazing pics (woot!)

It has been a LONG time since I posted here. Holy moly. Things have been more chaotic than I ever imagined, but I'll get into that later. This post is to show off the wonderful family pictures we took last weekend.

I heart them.
Now, let me tell you about Averi. We discovered her in 2011 and had our first shoot with her that summer (when it was just my parents, my sister, and JJ; we've clearly grown since then!). Ever since then, we have done at least five more shoots with her (might be missing one in there somewhere), and we have been SO happy with every single result. She is great with the kids, works so fast (we shot on a Saturday, had the online gallery up on Tuesday, and had the full picture disc on Friday), and she takes some AMAZING pictures. She is always professional, friendly, and wonderful. She's become more than our family photographer; she's also become a friend. If you live in or around Stillwater, I strongly suggest you consider Averi Blackmon Photography!

So when we shot with Averi on this particular Saturday, the rain had FINALLY left Oklahoma...but the heat had settled in. We shot at Theta Pond, which (luckily) has a lot of trees and shade, so it wasn't toooooo bad. It was a little chaotic because we had two toddlers and a hyper 6-year-old, and one of the toddlers (I'm lookin' at you, Grace) was in no-smile mode. I knew we'd get good pictures, but I wasn't quite sure just how good they would come out. 

But man. Once I saw the gallery, I was in love. It was so great to get some wonderful moments as a big family, along with some of just me/the kiddos and the kiddos.

The kiddos are doing their birthday pictures with her in late fall (SEVEN AND TWO! they're getting so big), so we'll be reshooting with Averi again. I'm so glad we got these pictures, though, because they're memories that will last forever.


Working mom guilt sucks.

It's nearly midnight. Most school nights, I'm passed out in the middle of my bed with one child - or, sometimes, both children - sleeping around me. Tonight, though, I have energy (don't ask me how)...so I'm doing things that need to be done. I took the trash out (effing cold outside right now, btw), washed/sanitized bottles, cleaned up JJ's bathroom that became a disaster area after bath time, and - once this post is done - I'll iron clothes for all of us, make sure I have stuff for pancakes in the morning, pack Mia's diaper bag and fold/put away two loads of laundry. I even managed to get in a couple of shows on my DVR, which is awesome; my DVR usually sits untouched until the weekend. It's been a long week at work, and I have a full day tomorrow that will probably see me working through lunch again so I can stay caught up; I hate being behind at work. I will probably have a couple of cups of coffee throughout the day, but that's fine. At least I have something there that will give me that boost I need.

But that's just house/family/work stuff. I just got an email for the teacher appreciation lunch committee, and I signed up to bring three large bags of chips. I also volunteered to send pumpkin quick bread mix to school with JJ tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure he needs to have his lunch card reloaded with money. I need to track down the library book we read tonight and make sure it makes it back into his backpack, find an appropriate shirt for school (it's PE day tomorrow, and I don't want him to get too hot by wearing a heavy shirt), and make sure his IEP stuff is worked out so he can get his speech and OT testing done. It's all a never-ending cycle of just stuff...and lately, it's been overwhelming.

I feel guilty being a working mom. I love what I do, but it's hard to get past the post of the stay-at-home moms who send the Pinterest crafts to school with their kids and seem to run the homeroom mom show flawlessly. It's hard to be the mom that volunteers to take the chips for the teacher appreciation luncheon because I just don't have time to throw together a dessert, or be there for set-up or clean-up. It's hard needing to work through lunch because I am so damn desperate to get out the door as close to 5pm as possible that I'd rather work through my lunch hour than have to stay until 6. By the time I pick up my children from daycare, I haven't seen them in more than 9 hours - and I miss them so much by that point that I am almost in tears every day when I pick them up.

It's hard to balance everything. I try my hardest to be there for the kids whenever they have something going on, and I am grateful that I work at a job that understands that. But that doesn't stop the guilt of my work keeping me away from my children for most of the week. I do not have the option to be a stay-at-home mom at the moment, and I am honestly not a good enough salesperson to start my own work-at-home business...I love education, and I'm good at what I do. I thrive in my current work environment, and I love it.

I hate that I am justifying my love for my job, when I really shouldn't have to do that.

I've seen the same exhausted, guilty looks on the faces of other working moms; I've had conversations with other working moms about how to balance it all. It is overwhelming to feel this much guilt, and it sucks to see stories on social media and in papers from parents putting down mothers who choose to work outside of the home. One time a couple of years ago, I saw a post on Twitter or Facebook - can't remember which - from a stay-at-home mom that basically said that she couldn't understand how people could let other people watch their kids for the day, that they must be bad parents if they choose not to stick around to raise their own children. That post happened ages ago, and it still makes me sick to my stomach to realize that people out there think of me that way: a shitty parent who lets a daycare raise her children. That is not the case, but I'm not here to convince random people that I'm not that type of person. I'm too tired to fight that fight.

My hope is that, one day, the working mom guilt goes away. I do not know if we will every be financially stable enough for me to stay home - my husband IS in the military, after all, and we cannot live comfortably on just his paycheck (which is a whole 'nother topic i won't get into at this moment). And I do not know if I am cut out to be a stay-at-home mom; I love spending time with my children, but I also love adult interaction, and working with the students. That doesn't mean I don't miss my kids every second that I'm away from them, or that I do not feel guilty that I probably should never be homeroom mom because I can't promise I can make every field trip - but I will definitely volunteer to send cookies, and will be there at every IEP meeting and parent/teacher conference. I want my kids, and the world, to know that just because I don't stay at home doesn't mean I'm not a worthy parent.

A really good friend of mine told me last weekend that I need to let go of the working mom guilt, that it will eat me alive if I don't find a way to just let it go. She's totally right...but I'm still struggling with letting it go. For now, I'll fake it 'til I make it, and I'll do my damndest to make sure my family knows how much I love them, even if I do work.


Positive reflection.

To say that October has been nuts is an understatement. Work was insane because of enrollment advising. Then Mia wound up getting tubes. Then both kids wound up sick at different parts of the month (and i was sick at the beginning of it, too). Then you just throw in life in general, and boom. You get from October 1st to October 31st very, very quickly - without even realizing it.

This month is more than just "another month", though; it's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, an event that wasn't even on my radar until Devon died. It's so hard to remember my carefree life before he died, and how things were before my world was shattered.

But today, instead of rehashing the past and how different my life is now, I'm going to live in the present and talk about how great it is. When I stop and think, it really is a great life.

I am blessed with two beautiful Earth babies and my sweet angel baby. Even with the struggles we've had with JJ, he is still so bright, and intelligent, and fun. Watching him grow has been the biggest blessing; I never knew how much my life would change when he was born, but he is just the best. And Mia - my goodness. She is a joy! She's so easygoing and giggly and such a charmer. What did I do to be blessed with three beautiful children? They make my life worth living.

I am fortunate to have a close relationship with my parents and my sister. My parents are the absolute best, watching my children without asking for a thing in return. My mom took off last Friday to watch Mia after surgery so that I could stay at work for awhile and catch up (she wound up watching both of my kids since JJ got sick, but she just said it was an added bonus to be able to spend all day with them). My dad loves to take JJ on "manly" excursions - bike rides around his college campus, to the car wash to wash his truck etc. My sister is great with the kids, especially JJ (probably because JJ is a mini version of Alicia, just ten times magnified in terms of personality and craziness, ha). They have helped me so much as I've raised the children on my own; I wouldn't be here without them.

I have a very fulfilling job. I get to work with some of the best, brightest students that my alma mater has to offer, and it is so awesome. Yeah, it's crazy a lot of the time, but the environment I work in is top-notch, and I love what I do. I hope to stay in higher education forever and continue to advise; I feel like I'm good at it, and I'm passionate about it. I also hope to start my master's degree sooner rather than later; I miss being in the classroom setting and am eager to learn more.

My friends are the greatest! I have a small circle of people that I hang out with on a regular basis, but they are the most generous, cool people ever. They're always there when I need a hug, or chocolate, or a drink, or something to babysit my children. Some (like my best friend) have been around for years; others (like my former coworker who moved home but is still a close friend of mine) have been around for a small amount of time but have become someone I will remain close to forever. While I am not the greatest at staying in touch, and usually can't have a conversation for long due to the kids, I hope they know that I adore each of them, and I would go to bat for every single one of them.

I have had some really cool experiences in my life. I've been to DisneyWorld and Universal Studios, got to live in Hawaii for a few years, have road tripped across the country and have seen some of the coolest things. I still have more places I want to go and more things I want to do, but I've done some pretty neat stuff already. I can't wait to add more things to that list of cool experiences.

My life has been hard the last couple of years. I live in constant fear that something will happen to my children. I miss my son more than words can say. Some days, I wake up wondering if this is really my life, if I really had to bury a child, if this is really how I see things now. But then I think of my children, and my family, and my life in general...and I try to live in the moment. Try to remember that even through all the darkness, there have been many more bright spots. I pray that I can remember these moments when I feel sad, or depressed, or angry at how things have gone - because these moments have pulled me through to where I am today.


How we (try) to survive our mornings.

Ever since school started back up, things have been NUTS. With a new boss at work and lots of new students, things have been a little chaotic (but i'm finally all caught up again, thank goodness). With a kiddo in kindergarten and one in daycare, mornings are borderline nightmares. It usually goes something like this:

- 6am: Alarm goes off. I hit snooze and swear to get up at 6:05am.
- 615am: I finally roll my sleepy butt out of bed after hitting the snooze button twice more.
- 620-640am: Do the things I should've done the night before but was too tired to do (finish washing bottles, iron clothes, pack bags).
- 640-7am: Intend to get myself ready for work, but then Mia wakes up screaming for a bottle. Get her changed and ready for the day, but keep her in her PJs because she likes to have blowouts, and I'd rather her do that in her PJs than the clothes I just ironed.
- 7am-710am: Play with Mia. Because, come on. She's cute. And fun. And likes when I make faces at her.
- 710-725am: Hurriedly get ready for work, all while trying to get JJ to get out of bed. So far, he's still snoring away. During this time, Mia isn't happy I put her down, so I give her my cell phone to chew on. I also usually forget to pack something (lunch, extra diapers, something for work), so I'm trying to do that while doing everything else.
- 725-730am: Finally shake JJ awake and have him drag himself to the kitchen for breakfast, which is now cold and needs to be reheated (usually oatmeal, hot chocolate/crackers, cereal or eggs/smoothie). Fix his hair and try to get him changed while he munches on breakfast.
- Intend to get out the door by 740am (the earliest i can drop jj off at school), but we usually get out closer to 745am. Then I deal with the school drop-off line, then drive Mia to daycare and get to work. As you probably figured, I don't make it on time most mornings.

I didn't think it would be this hard to get us through the morning unscathed, but it seriously is. Our morning routine usually puts me in a bad mood (one that i don't let show until i'm alone in the car and can scream it out while driving to work), so I know we need to make changes/adjustments. After doing some Googling and retweaking, I think I have a solution we can try.

The problem isn't that I don't have enough time in the morning; the problem is that because I have no energy at night. I don't eat well, I don't sleep well, and I'm running from the time I get up until the time the kids are in bed (which usually winds up being my bedtime, too). To handle my crazy days and not crash out, I found some great energy-boosting snack ideas that I can keep at my desk (like apples and peanut butter, or hummus and chips) and get me through the afternoon. In recent days, I started to implement a few simple things that will hopefully help us out in the long run:

1. I try to get everything done for the next day the night before. I've started letting JJ pick out his clothes the night before, then I iron all of our clothes while he's settling into bed. I let bottles soak while we're eating dinner and wash after the kids go to bed. I fold laundry while catching up on TV shows or the news. I pack of all our bags and set them by the door - along with my keys - before bed. I try to multi-task as much as possible so I can get things done quickly.

2. I stay much more organized than I did during the summer. My Erin Condren life planner has become a lifesaver. I use it to track everything, from things JJ needs for school to meal plans to upcoming appointments. I carry it everywhere and keep lots of things in it (from stamps to coupons). I use my Google calendar for everything, too, and have it set up to send me text/email reminders when really important things are coming up. I have a small whiteboard on the side of my fridge that I use for grocery items, recipes I want to look up and other miscellaneous things. I know most people probably don't need all that stuff to stay organized, but I do - and they help.

3. I now get up earlier (barf). I hate mornings. I am not, by any means, an early riser. But if I can start my mornings on the calm side and not feel so rushed, it helps all of us have a better morning. It also helps when Mia decides she wants to hang out with me at 645am.

4. I try not to sweat the small stuff. If I don't get the entire house picked up the night before, or forget to vacuum, so what? Spending time with my kids is more important than making sure the dishwasher is empty. I've struggled with keeping a clean home and a happy family since JJ was born, and I've started to let go of that a little bit more as I've adjusted to a household with two kiddos. It all eventually gets done anyway.

5. I set a timer while cleaning and give myself 15 minutes to get certain areas done. I am a procrastinator at heart, so if I don't time myself, it'll take me three hours to clean (because i stop to watch TV, or i stop to eat a snack, whatever). So I've now started setting a time in my procrastinator areas - the bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry - and give myself 15 minutes to get through it. The dishes sometimes take longer, and the toilet by itself can take 15 minutes to clean because the cleaner needs to soak in...but that's OK. Once the timer is set and I'm moving, it keeps me on track so I get things done quicker.

6. I drink more coffee than I ever have in my life. I used to only have a cup every few days, but now I'm having 1-2 cups every day. I never drank that much coffee in college. As life slows down, I'll cut down on it, but for now, it's an essential survival tool for this mama running a single parent household.

I was naive in thinking that I could manage everything on my own once school got back into full swing. Even though we had the last two months of school last school year where I was working and dropping kids off, things just seem so much more chaotic this school year. My hope is that as we adjust to this new routine, things will get better and I can add in more things - home cooked breakfasts, workouts, better meal plans - that I want to do but just don't have the time and energy to do now. We will get there. I know we will.

And, because I can, and this blog post was super long - random posts of my babies. They are the best.