Good-bye 26...

In less than an hour, I'll be 27. Another year older, definitely another year wiser, and ready to see what this new year will bring. I'm not quite sure why I'm mentally making such a big deal about a new age...well, I do know why.

I want a fresh start. This past year has been so hard for me, has been full of so many ups and downs, that I feel like I'm about to turn 40. The last year had so much promise, and instead, I experienced so much heartache. And this will be my first birthday since losing Devon, and it just doesn't seem right that I will be celebrating it with him in my heart instead of with me. The first round of holidays after my loss have been tough to deal with, and my birthday is no exception.

It's hard for me to focus on what good 26 brought, because it's so overpowered by losing my son. But I did have some bright moments...I had a lot of great moments with JJ. The year was hard for us because he was going through behavioral and social issues, but we finally found him two great places [his current daycare and the early childhood center he goes to now] that have done him so much good. My sweet boy has grown so much in the last year, both intellectually and physically, and I look forward to so many more moments with him.

I had another great year at my job. I LOVE my job. I love working with students, love my co-workers, and I love what I do. I'm blessed to be in such a great work environment and to work with some amazing kids.

I got my husband back from his first deployment. That was probably the highlight of my year. I was absolutely terrified the entire time he was gone, so to get him home was the biggest relief ever. I'm so glad he came home safe.

My dad came hom, too! After more than 2.5 years in Afghanistan as a contractor, he is finally home for good. It's great to have my whole family back together again; he's been a big part of our family, and it hasn't been the same without him here.

I got Arthur the Sonata. I love Arthur. He also needs a wash - badly.

Most importantly, I got to see another year of my life. No matter how much pain and sorrow I experienced, I am just grateful I got to live through it, got to write another chapter in my [hopefully long] book of life. I met new people, did cool things, formed new relationships and lived. I honestly have no regrets about how the last year has gone, because the way things went were out of my control. You can call it fate, God's hand at work, whatever - but I am just here to live the best life I can, given the cards that I'm dealt. I can admit that I was dealt a decently crappy hand for 26, but I made the best of it.

I will say that I am very surprised at the strength I have nowadays. Most people think I'm the strongest person alive, but they don't see me when I'm alone. They don't see all the tears I cry in the car during lunch, the breakdowns I have while holding Devon's bear, the thoughts that roll through my mind about my angel every single day. I literally have one moment a day where I could just lose it, but I don't. I have been able to pull strength from my deepest core more and more each day, and I am finding ways to live my life again and try to move forward. It's hard, and I still have days when I want to quit. But I think the thing I will remember most about 26 is that I have way more strength than I thought I would ever have. I hit my lowest point of my entire life on that fateful August night when I found out Devon was gone, and I honestly wasn't sure I would ever recover. To me, it's a miracle that I'm able to stand here at 27 and say that I'm here to live my life. I can move forward, can find hope that this new year will be a better one for me and my family. Her'e's hoping.

Now I'm starting to ramble, so to end this post, here are the last random 17 things about me [the first 10 are here]:

11. I haaaaaaaaaate cleaning the bathroom. I do it because it needs to get done, but I'll put it off for as long as possible.

12. My favorite color is blue. Always has been. A close second is orange [that shouldn't really surprise those that know me].

13. I used to hate spaghetti. I have many childhood memories of sitting at the dinner table, crying because I couldn't leave until I finished my spaghetti. I still don't know why I didn't like spaghetti that much, because it's so good!

14. I don't like seafood. I just can't do it. The saltwater fishy taste gets me every single time.

15. I loooooove steak. I can't handle it very well anymore since losing my gallbladder, but I will still eat it on occasion. It's so good.

16. Speaking of gallbladder, I have had two surgeries in my entire life: one to repair the MCL I tore in my left knee a decade ago, and one to remove my gallbladder back in 2011.

17. I was not always a sports nut. I didn't really become one until I got to college and start attending random sporting events. Before college, I only was an NBA fan. My have times have changed.

18. Before having JJ and getting married, my dream job was to be the PR person for the Dallas Mavs. I wanted to work in PR for the NBA so badly...but then we found out JJ was coming, and things changed [for the better].

19. I could down Vegas bombs all day. They're my favorite.

20. I love cherries. They're delish. And grapes - but only the red ones.

21. I don't like sleeping in the dark. I've been that way for years. I either have to have a nightlight or something. Sleeping in the pitch dark only happens when I'm absolutely exhausted.

22. JJ's phobia of loud noises absolutely came from me. I HATE loud noises. Cannons, fireworks, thunder...if it's loud, I always cover my ear. I will probably always be that way.

23. Only my closest friends and family know the true scope of my *N Sync obsession. I'm tellin' you, if they ever pulled a NKOTB and got back together, I would faint.

24. I don't like frosting that much. I'd rather eat the cake.

25. One of my favorite albums of all time is Smash Mouth's "Astro Lounge". And one of my favorite tracks ever is from that album, "When the Morning Comes". I own that CD and love it still, more than a decade later.

26. I hate trying on clothes. I would rather buy it and have to return it than try it on. I don't know why - I guess because it's just such a hassle to change in and out of clothes.

27. I have lost three necklaces by dropping them down a sink drain. I don't even get near sink drains anymore when I take necklaces off.

So here's to you, 26. You were tough, but I made it. Let's see what 27 brings.


Adventures in Cooking from Scratch: pancakes edition

It's been awhile since I posted something regarding cooking, and that's because I've been in a cooking rut. Work was crazy for about a month, so I just stuck to basic stuff and didn't venture outside the box. But today, thanks to my mom, I jumped outside the box again.

During a morning FaceTime chat, she asked JJ what Mommy was making for breakfast. He said eggs and rice [which is what we had decided - well, I had decided - i was making]. Then my mom suggested pancakes, and JJ wouldn't let it go. Problem was, I didn't have any Bisquick. And, I'd never made pancakes from scratch because I leave that up to my mom. She makes the best pancakes. How am I supposed to compete with Grandma's pancakes?

But, because JJ wouldn't rest until I made his pancakes, I took to the Interwebz and found a simple recipe. I actually had all the ingredients [including a sifter!] - which was great, because it was really cold this morning, and there was no way we were venturing out - so I went to work. Recipe is as follows, which I found on allrecipes.com:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

I used an ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into a frying pan, and it worked perfectly. The batter made about 10 medium-sized pancakes and 2 baby pancakes that I gave JJ. I totally expected him to not like them because he's a picky eater, but he LOVED them. Add a little syrup, and the pancakes were gone in no time. The sugar adds a little sweetness to the batter, and they came out nice and fluffy - just like pancakes should. I will never, EVER use boxed pancake mix again.

I felt so domesticated this morning while I was making those pancakes. I was so proud of myself that I even posted pictures of my perfect pancakes on Instagram. Yes, I'm a nerd. But, thanks to my mom, I'm back on the cooking game and wanting to try more things from scratch again. Next up will probably be stuffed bell peppers and maybe a pie or cake. Yum.

Pancakes. Nom.


Four years.

As I've gotten older, I find myself saying "where has the time gone?!" a lot more often. This situation had me saying the same thing, too.

My four-year wedding anniversary is today.

Four years ago, in a courthouse in Lawton, J and I got married. With close friends, family and our 3-month-old as witnesses, we said our vows and made it forever. While it wasn't the wedding I'd always dreamed of, the outcome was still the same - so it didn't matter.

Four years later, we have been through so much more than I ever thought we would go through. Air Force, living in separate states, deployment, losing a child, issues with JJ...we have had a LOT of things test our marriage. Some days, I didn't think we'd make it. Some days, we talked about separating. But after four years of very high highs and very low lows, we are still together. Still strong. Still happy.

No one said a long distance relationship would be easy - and that's pretty much all we know is the long distance stuff. But we both hope this will end soon, that we will all be together in the same place. Until then, though, we rely on phone calls, text messages, FaceTime and the occasional card to get us through. When you love someone, when you've found the person you know you want to be with forever and a day, you just make it work. I'm so glad that we've made it work, that I'm still in love with my husband, that he and I are still together through everything we've been through.

Yes, he and I don't always see eye to eye on things. We are very much two different people with two different sets of interests [well, besides sports and cheesecake]. But at the end of the day, what matters is that I love him, and he loves me. I am so lucky to have him here, so lucky that he's stuck by my side through all of the random crap that life has put us through. He isn't who I imagined I'd be with, but he's who I needed and wanted.

I still can't believe it's been four years. I feel like we've been together for so much longer, but that's just because our marriage has literally been tested to the breaking point on multiple occasions. What hasn't broken us has made us stronger, and J is definitely a very strong man. He's been my rock, my other half, and my joy for 8.5 years now; I hope that we have many, many more years together with us, JJ and, heaven willing, more children.

Happy Four Years to the one man [who is not my dad] who has put up with my obsession with Justin Timberlake, my crazy couponing habits, my love of the right kind of orange [sorry babe, but ostate orange is way better than burnt orange], and my tendency to wear flip flops all year round. I'm so blessed to still have you by my side. Here's to forever and a day. I love you.

We totes love each other. Totes.


Ten down; seven to go.

I stepped on the scale yesterday for the first time since January. While I usually avoid scales - mainly because they don't tell me what I want to see, which isn't the scale's fault - I wanted to see just how much weight I'd dropped since I started running about two months ago.

When I saw my doctor in January, I was 167.

Yesterday, I was 157.


I had figured that I had lost that much [judging by how my clothes now fit better and I've dropped from a 10 to an 8], but to see that number looking back at me was totally surreal. The least I've weighed since becoming a mom was 155, and my goal weight is 150. If I could get down to that by the end of the semester [which is eight more weeks], that would be amazing. I still can't believe I'm down ten pounds. Woot!

At this point, I'm re-running Week 4 of C25K [I'll do the last day of Week 4 later today and will start Week 5 on Monday]. I pushed myself on Wednesday and ran an entire mile. That was a freaking miracle. A MILE. When I started this whole C25K thing, I wasn't even sure I could run 1/5 of a mile. Now, I'm seven weeks from my first 5K and pretty much right on track. I've been running consistently for about 6 weeks, so I should be ahead...but I re-ran two Week 3 and Week 4 because I didn't feel confident enough in my running to move forward. I'm glad I repeated though, because Week 4 this time around is going much better than the last round.

I've noticed that I want to run faster, that my body wants to work harder during my runs. I used to do this whole measured breathing thing that matched my breaths with when my foot would hit the ground, but that was slowing me down and causing shin splints. With this week's runs, I've focused on my breathing but on just controlling it, not following a specific pattern. I felt so much better after those runs because I wasn't trying to slow my body down just to breathe. I am just blown away at how my body is adjusting to running, how much easier running is becoming. C25K really works!

I'm also repeating the 14 day ab challenge [on day 5; i skipped a day], and I'm doing 30 Day challenge as well to build up strength. I'm not doing that every single day but am getting in the groove and will hopefully do it every day [or at least every other day, depending on when I run]. On top of that, I started a new vitamin regimen - JuicePlus - that a friend and fellow blogger introduced me to. I just started it, so we'll see how I feel after my first 30 days on the pills.

This is the first time in a veeeeeeery long time that I've been committed to working out. I'm still kinda surprised that I've actually been this committed. I am proof that people have NO excuses to NOT work out. I'm basically a single parent who works all day, begs for more time in the day and struggles to keep up with life in general. I kept making excuses about working out until I got my butt in gear and found a way to make it work. I run during lunch, do the abs stuff before bed or first thing in the morning, and I do 30DS after JJ goes to bed. Where there's a will, there's a way - anyone can work out if they just make the time and figure it out.

I'm slowly getting in the best shape I've been in since high school. Seeing the body changes, feeling the clothes fit better [i got into a size 10 comfortably at alfred angelo when i went last night to try on bridesmaid dresses - last time i wore a 10, it was waaaaay too tight], and seeing the scale tick down are motivation to keep going. Just gotta keep truckin'.

Ten pounds down; 7 more to go. I got this.

I got back into a pair of jeans I haven't worn since college. This is my "shocked that they fit" face.