Five.

Five years.

Of what? Well, five solid years of being with the love of my life. Five years ago today we became an “us” and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The beginning of the year tends to be a roller coaster of emotions. Each year begins with us celebrating the first child that we shared together; our daughter, Elyssa Kalani, who was born sleeping on January 31, 2011 when I was only 28 weeks into the pregnancy. A week later is our dating anniversary and a day after that is our wedding anniversary.

Yup, tomorrow (February 8th) we will have been married for four years.

Four and five years may not seem like much to some but to me it’s an achievement. Every relationship has its moments but it’s the strongest relationships that make it through each one. I stand firmly behind my belief that marriage is just like a full time job; it takes effort, dedication, and teamwork.

I love that I can honestly say that, even after five whole years, my husband still gives me butterflies.

We have been through a lot together and have had our fair share of “difficult times” but we never gave up on the “us” we became on February 7, 2010.

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Still Got It

A woman’s body goes through so many changes after having a baby. For me, I dropped the weight quickly but my stomach isn’t as firm as it once was. I also feel as if I lost the only asset I had to begin with (my boobs). Not to say it wasn’t worth it. I love my daughter more than words could begin to describe, but, I do miss my pre-baby body.

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the boudoir session I recently did. I finally got the pictures back and I must say that I am very satisfied with the way they turned out. This session was a huge ego boost and helped me to feel beautiful and sexy all over again. I was so eager to share them with my husband and he loved all of them, too.

When people hear “boudoir” they are most likely going to start thinking scandalous poses and raunchy lingerie. What those people don’t realize is that a boudoir session isn’t just that. It can be made into whatever it is that you want it to be. For myself, I wanted classy and sweet. Tasteful yet with a touch of sexy. My sister in law was on point; she made my vision come to life through her work. I am beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to work with someone so talented.

I hope that any woman that reads this and sees my pictures can find the confidence herself to book her own boudoir session. It doesn’t matter your size, shape, or anything else for that matter. These sessions are designed to celebrate you and your individual beauty. Remember, ladies: we are our own worst critics. Don’t let your insecurities hold you back. You are all beautiful in your very own way.

Photo Credit: Casey Hollins Photography / http://www.caseyhollinsphotography.com / Facebook: Casey Hollins Photography

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Domesticated

Growing up my sister and I were not raised in the kitchen. Anything that we made for ourselves was very basic – a sandwich, ramen noodles, cereal. Seriously – BASIC.

The most time I spent in the kitchen during my youth was when I would bake and even that wasn’t something that happened very often nor was it ever anything extravagant. So, as you can imagine, as a 26 year old adult my skills in the kitchen are limited. To be brutally honest with you, within the past year I made my very first successful grilled cheese sandwich and more recently my very first successful cheeseburger.

Ridiculous. I know.

That is why I am even more proud of myself when I tell you that this weekend I cooked the following meals for dinner for my family. –

Friday: Italian fried chicken, corn, red roasted potatoes

Saturday: Kielbasa with diced red potatoes, green beans, and red beans and rice

Sunday: herb roasted pork loin, green beans, and au gratin potatoes

Tonight: homemade sloppy joe sandwiches and French fries

They aren’t the fanciest or most well balanced meals ever, but, I cooked them so I am very proud of myself! Greg did help me Friday and Saturday but Sunday and tonight were all me!

One Reason Adulthood Sucks

For a few months I’ve been kicking around the idea of making a trip out to Hawaii – me, Greg, and all three of the girls – to visit my family. They have yet to meet Greg or any of the girls so a trip out there would mean the world to me.

But, of course, money is my biggest enemy. It hates me. It really does. It is absolutely impossible for me to hold onto a single dollar. I never refer to “payday” as such. Instead, it is “pay bills day.” A day where money is temporarily deposited into my bank account just long enough for me to hand it out to all of my bill collectors.

I hate being in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. If I could, I would go back in time and stop my 18 year old self from getting the credit cards I did or at least limit myself to one and use it to establish good credit for myself. At 18 years old I basically just dug myself a financial grave and dove right in.

Shame on 18 year old me.

Now, here I am, 26 years old and suffering through the consequences of my immature decisions. I came across a really great blog recently about how to pay off your debts. It has a ton of wonderful tips – some that I hadn’t heard of before. So, now my goal is to make adjustments where I can so that we can start paying off our debts and work our way towards a better financial future.

Now back to Hawaii – after months of searching Kayak, Expedia, and all of the other travel sites, we have opened our eyes to the harsh reality that making a trip to Hawaii before Laurel turns two just isn’t feasible. October is going to be here before we know it and with the girls having a summer break that lasts from June through mid-August we are limited on when we can even go on the trip. Even if we could come up with the money to make it out there and have a hotel to stay in and a rental car to get around in, we would still have to worry about spending money. I wouldn’t want to have to limit ourselves while we are out there.

Hawaii is an absolutely amazing place. If and when we finally make it out there I want everyone to be able to fully enjoy themselves. Eat at the best restaurants, experience things like parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking and so much more. There is just an endless amount of fun things to do in Hawaii and I want to do it all with my husband and our children. I don’t want to have to say “no, maybe another time.” to the kids while on a trip like that.

So…all in all…can I just win the lottery already!?

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Fat Sunday

I feel like a blimp. My stomach is so tight it feels like if I sneeze it will pop like a balloon. It’s my fault. I couldn’t help myself.

For about a week now I’ve been craving donuts. Not just any donuts – Sugar Shack Donuts.

Finally, an hour before they closed, I made the trek out to Richmond to get them. I had Googled their hours and saw they closed at 6:00p so I rushed Greg to get ready while I dressed the baby and stuffed my bag full of all the usual baby necessities.

Within twenty minutes we were all ready and pulling out of the driveway. I was anxious to get there on time. I didn’t want to make the 40 minute drive only to see that they had already closed. I could already taste the donuts just knowing how close I was to getting some.

We made it just in time – 5:50p and we weren’t the only ones pulling in the parking lot, either. A van pulled in ahead of us and two other vehicles right behind us. I hate being the last people to show up right before a place is supposed to close so I was relieved I wasn’t going to be the only asshole tonight.

I get Laurel out of the car and we walk up to the door. As we approach the door I notice a sign that says “We are open 6:30a to 9:00p every day!!!”

Really, Google?! Thank you for kicking my anxiety into high gear as I rushed into town for my donut fix.

We decided to be super-fatties today and bought a dozen donuts. They were a little on the pricey side but, hey, they’re worth it! Laurel loved them, too. We sat her on a stool between us at the “bar” and I sat facing her with a leg on either side of her in the event that she leaned too far in any direction. She loved sitting up there. She really is getting to be so big these days.

It was as if she were watching a tennis match as she moved her head from side to side getting bites off of my donut then Greg’s. The donuts were so amazing and I loved watching Laurel and Greg enjoy them, too. We are definitely going to have to go back soon, though, so that Cayden and Carlie can experience this amazing goodness for themselves, too!

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After the Baby

My body isn’t perfect – it never has been. Now that I’ve had a baby? It certainly isn’t.

I’m not going to lie (and I’m not bragging, either), I have it better than some new moms out there do. With basically no effort whatsoever I quickly dropped back to my pre-pregnancy weight in less than a year. I thank my good genes for that! Although I’m back to a weight that I am happy with I still look in the mirror at my once baby-filled belly and see what I refer to as my “soggy donut belly”.

Okay, I know it isn’t as bad as I’m making it sound, but, I’m my own worst critic so what do you really expect me to think of my post-baby belly?!

I don’t mope around over the fact that my stomach isn’t as flat and as tight as it once was or that I wish it were. My skin will gain it’s elasticity back eventually (I hope) and I need to stop making excuses and start working out at least a couple days a week. You have to work for what you want and that includes the body that you want.

My sister-in-law has her own photography business. She does a wonderful job and is very talented; I’m beyond thankful to have a photographer for a sister-in-law! With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching she is now offering boudoir sessions. When I saw her post about it, my initial thought was how much I wish I could do a session but how much more I wish I had the same body that I did three years ago.

A couple days after Casey announced these upcoming boudoir sessions she sent me a text asking if I knew anyone who may be interested in doing a free boudoir session. The only catch would be that she would require permission to use the photographs in her future boudoir advertisements.

I immediately dialed her number. She picks up and I just blurt it out, “I’ll do it!” So now this Sunday I’m going to be spending the afternoon with my sister-in-law pushing myself out of my little box and making myself get over my insecurities.

This isn’t going to be my first boudoir session – I did one about four years ago. Considering the fact that Casey is my husband’s sister I was nervous going into that first session but once we got started I quickly loosened up and began enjoying the experience of this ego boosting photography session. Casey made me feel beautiful and so comfortable. The pictures turned out great (if I do say so myself)!

As for this upcoming session, those butterflies and doubts are back. I stare at my belly even more in the mirror these days; poking and pinching at my belly wishing it would just go back to how it used to be. But, that’s not going to happen. At least not yet. Instead, I am going to learn to love myself and my body once again. Every inch of it. And I am going to rock this photo shoot!

Missed Time

I cried on the way home from work today.

For a little over a year now my schedule has been 7:00a-4:00p. I loved it. This week I officially moved into Customer Service. It feels great to take that final step in the direction I was pushed into two months ago. With that leap came a new schedule. Starting today my hours changed to 8:00a-5:00p.

An extra hour of sleep each night is great. I felt more refreshed heading in to work this morning, however, 5:00p rolls around and (as usual) I still have a couple of assignments that I was required to get done prior to my leaving for the day. It took me an extra 20 minutes before I was finally headed out the door.

I get in my car, pull out of the parking lot and get in line behind a number of cars waiting to get on the I-64. The wait to get on the interstate here is crucial at times – especially during rush hour. As usual, I called my husband to let him know that I was on my way home. He answers and I can hear Laurel babbling in the background.

I lost it.

It seems like I rarely make it out of work at my scheduled time off. On top of that, my commute to and from work is 40 minutes each way not counting any traffic or any potential errands that need to be made prior to getting home. I feel like I’m losing more and more time with my daughter and it crushes me.

She’s growing up so fast and I wish that I could spend every second of every day with her.

I pull into my driveway and the living room blinds are open. My eyes are glued to the windows as I search for my daughter’s pudgy little face, but, she isn’t there.

I go to check the mail and on my way back towards the house I look up and see her peeking out the window. She’s looking for me and my heart melts. She finally sees me and I wave at her. My heart is soaring. It feels so good to be home. I rush through the door and drop everything, grab my baby up in my arms and hold her tight. She looks straight at me as she waits for her kiss. She loves to give kisses.

Home certainly is where my heart remains.

The Great Debate

Since I was a little girl I have dreamt of nothing more than to be a mother of two. Technically I have my two. If you aren’t familiar with my background story, my first child (Elyssa) was stillborn at 28 weeks. It will have been four years come January 31.

Although I have had two daughters, I continue to go back and forth on the topic of having another baby. Personally, I wouldn’t want the age difference to be more than three years. Laurel will be two years old this October so clearly I need to make the final decision as time is quickly running out.

The biggest thing that makes me lean more towards having another is when I watch Laurel playing by herself. She’s content doing so, but, I just wonder how much happier she would be to constantly have someone there to play with. A younger sibling to follow her around. Yes, she has Cayden and Carlie to play with, but, they’re only here every other weekend and, honestly, the older they get the more likely it is that they will come around less and less as they will want to spend the majority of their time hanging out with their friends.

I love the bond my sister and I had growing up together and I want Laurel to have that, too.

The biggest thing holding me back from saying “let’s have another” is the fact that we are no where near being financially ready. We currently don’t have the space in our home, either. We’ll see where the next few months take us and maybe, just maybe, we will be ready to have another baby by the end of the year.

Forget Me Not

Alzheimer’s Disease. I hate it. My Grandma, along with at least one of her siblings that I know of, has it.

I’m 26 years old, married, and have two stepchildren and two children of my own. To my Grandmother? I’m in high school and will be getting my driver’s license soon.

Things have been getting progressively worse lately. My Grandma fell twice within the past couple of months and it’s just become too much for my step grandfather to handle on his own. With that, the decision was made for her to be moved into an assisted living home. I knew that the idea was being tossed around but I didn’t find out for sure that she had been placed into a home until I saw a picture of her on Facebook.

Yesterday while talking to my Dad on the phone he didn’t bring up anything about my Grandma. After getting off of the phone with him, I called my sister who recently moved to Hawaii. She informed me that about an hour prior to our phone call she spoke with our dad and he gave her an update about our grandmother. This update only came to her because she happened to mention something about Texas, which is where our grandmother lives.

Apparently my uncle and other members of our family went to visit our grandmother in her new home and to bring her Christmas gifts. In the couple of weeks that she’s been living in the assisted living home she forgot who anyone was. She didn’t even recognize my uncle – her own son. She had no idea why they were bringing her gifts.

My heart broke at this news. It’s only been a couple of weeks. I wonder if it’s due to the fact that she’s been taken out of the world she always knew. I know it was a difficult decision for her to be moved into this home, but, I also know that it was in her best interest.

The part that gets me the most is that my dad doesn’t seem to want to keep my siblings and I all as up to date as we’ve repetitively told him we’d like to be. We want to know everything. I don’t like finding things out days or weeks after they happen. And I especially don’t like finding things out through Facebook.

I understand that it is a difficult situation. Everyone is struggling with this hardship in their own way and it isn’t that easy to talk about. But, we’re all family. We all understand the situation. We all love this wonderful woman just as much as the next person.

I reached out to my cousin with my concern that we aren’t being kept in the loop. It wasn’t anything towards her. It’s just that she also lives in Texas and while I’m in Virginia she’s much closer to everyone and knows more of what is going on. She spoke with her parents and they decided to make a Facebook page to keep everyone up to date. Our family is so big and there is so much distance between some of us that it plays into how difficult it might be to make sure everyone knows what is going on.

My hope is that one day, sooner than later, a cure for this ugly disease is found.

Two Little Girls

It happened today. The trigger was pulled and my day was completely shot to pieces. My mood plummeted and I no longer wanted to do anything but curl up in my bed and cover myself up with the blanket.

It was something so simple, too. Nothing that would ever bother what I refer to as “the lucky people”. These people aren’t like me. Their children are alive.

Today at work I received a call from a woman named Elyssa. Pronounced like Alyssa, but, so unexpectedly spelled the same way as my daughter’s name. You know…my stillborn daughter.

January 31, 2015 will be Elyssa’s fourth birthday. Since my youngest daughter, Laurel, came into this world, in October 2013, I’ve learned what it feels like to be truly happy again.  I still have my moments of flashbacks and what not, but, today was definitely the worst day I’ve had in over a year.

Hearing my daughter’s name always stings but to hear someone spelling their name for me and it being spelled with an E…man that hurt. At first I was excited because I had never met anyone with that spelling but once the call ended the gears in my brain started turning. The memories started rolling in and that dull ache in my heart started to sting more and more. All the “what ifs” and “I wonders” started rolling in like a massive thunderstorm.

My day was ruined.

Time continues to tick away and I find myself walking through my front door.

Ahh, home sweet home.

Laurel sees me come around the corner and a smile beams across her face, but, she stays sitting in her father’s lap. She doesn’t come waddling up to me like she normally does.
I put my things down and grab her up. She is such an anti-snuggler. She pushes me off so that she can roam around the house looking for anything she can get into.

My heart aches more.

Dinner time comes and goes. Next I’m sitting in Laurel’s room watching as she plays with her toys. She heads over to her bookshelf and picks out a book. She hands me a copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and climbs up into my lap.
Climbing into my lap for a book is fairly new and I love that she does it. This time was different, though. It felt bittersweet. I’m so blessed and thankful to have Laurel. She really does light up my life. But oh how much I wish that there were two little girls sitting in my lap listening to me as I read this story with silly voices and animal noises.

Tears sting my eyes with each word that I read. With each turn off a page, they fall one by one.

There should definitely be two little girls sitting in my lap.