Fulltime Family

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So, our family has a little announcement.

Okay, so maybe it’s not so little. (And no, I’m not pregnant… how many of y’all thought I was headed in that direction?)

We’re leaving Spain! And that’s not the half of it.

You see, I’ve always done things a little differently and what I’m about to tell you is no exception.

Where do I begin?

Let me just get right down to it…

12 years ago I married my husband and we high tailed out of our small (population less than 2,000) hometown. We moved to Florida and fell in love with the area. Two weeks after I turned 18, we ended up leaving the country and living in Japan for three years. We took a two year break from overseas life and returned to Florida. For these past 5.5 fun-filled years we’ve found ourselves exploring Spain and the world around us with our three globetrotting chicas.

Moving back to America is a big, huge change for us and yes, these last 5.5 years have been amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing but we are oh, so ready for America. Our girls need to see the good ‘ol US of A, y’all. While I can’t wait to see our girls dig their feet in the sugar white sands along the Emerald Coast, my desire to see the world was born the minute I closed the passenger door on our tiny little U-Haul and cruised hand in hand all the way to Florida from Missouri in June 2004. I’m just not ready to settle down.

So, we bought an RV!

Well, a travel trailer. And we’ve decided to become full-timers.

You read that right. Our family of 5 (plus our dog and cat) is going to be living out a 35 foot travel trailer instead of a house.

There’s so much to see in the US and airline tickets just aren’t the same in the states as they are in Europe.

When I initially threw this idea out to my husband he was floored. Who does this? How will it work for our family of five and our pets? Luckily, through research, we’ve found that there are thousands of families all across the US that have taken the plunge into full-time RV life. I’ve loved gleaning information from them and we cannot wait for this next chapter of our life.

Our “launch date” is July 11th and we can’t be more excited.

We hope you’ll continue to follow along as it is sure to be an interesting adventure for us all!

U S A! U S A!

Happy travels, y’all!

Oh, Florida.

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We did so much traveling in 2011, brought our kids along and it made for one exciting year. We started out 2011 with a trip to California visiting DisneyLand and SeaWorld, then Minnesota in February to see my sister, moved to Spain in March with trips to Portugal and Barcelona and now here we are in Virginia (oh, can’t forget Washington DC or North Carolina). Even with all those trips, the year wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to see my lovely friends in Florida. I loved the two years we had in Florida; we had an amazing church, the weather in Florida is beauty-ful, the beaches are (hands down) the absolute best I’ve ever tanned my luscious body on been to and most importantly; it’s where my best friends live! I had a total of 11 Florida-riffic days. Each day was so full of spending time with friends, that I actually never stepped foot on the white beaches of the Emerald Coast. I know, I know; I’m such a boob. But, here’s what I did do.

I was in Florida over my birthday (lucky me) and had planned to spend the day with my lovely friend, Paige and her 6 kids. I love Paige. Seriously. I have my “sister moms” and my “sisters in Christ”. Paige fits in both those categories. I remember the day I met Paige for the first time. We were fresh into the Floridian life and hadn’t met too many people yet. There was a park nearby our house that I would bring Aliana to. One afternoon, Paige was there with her kids (then just 4) and her daughter, Anna and Aliana made fast friends and the rest is history. I had originally intended to be in this photo but, my photography skills flew out the window that day when I completely cut myself out. Photographing 8 children and 2 adults on a timer with no tripod is not my strong suit. Not sure if it’s anyone elses’ for that matter, either.

Any day with Paige and her crew is always fun. Having her friendship is a blessing and no matter the distance between us, I’m always thankful to have that wonderful woman in my life.

Now let’s move on to what is this wonderful creation, baby Abigail. Who, actually, isn’t the baby of the family anymore now that little John came along. I love each and every one of Paige’s kids but,  Abigail has the most vibrant soul of any toddler I’ve met. She’s so dang cute, silly and fearless. Can’t you just see it in her eyes?

She’s so full of love; ready and willing to squeeze her lovins into others whether they like it or not. We fit into the category of the ones who like it.

No shoes? No problem!

After a couple hours of walking/running/jumping/climbing around Eden Gardens State Park…

… we all felt like this. Which, is a pretty good sign that my birthday was a success.

Meet two of the greatest Moms. Ever. Sabrina (left) and Jessie (right) are fellow Moms of 2. We fall into the same category of crunchy-ness as mothers and baby, I like it. I met Jessie in 2009 in Pensacola, Florida at a birth doula training and tried to keep in contact ever since. She’s a mother of two beautiful little girls, military wife, home birther, extended breastfeeder, and one of the best Moms I know. I’m lucky to call her my friend. I met Sabrina through Jessie. Sabrina happens to be just as awesome; a mother to two beautiful babies, home birther, extended breastfeeder, avid gardener, and birth photographer. Like me, both of these ladies became mothers at a young age and strongly felt motherhood as a calling. Their friendship is refreshing; they make me feel more comfortable in my own skin, inspire me to be a better person and I’m extremely blessed to know both these gorgeous ladies.

We’re just so cool, y’all. Seriously.

We stayed at Jessie’s house for about a week while we were in Florida. Jessie’s daughters are the same age as my two girls. Ellie is her oldest who is quickly approaching 5. Ali and her got along great and we miss her so much!

Meet Vera. If I could pick a picture that speaks a thousand words, this one would be it. This is exactly Vera’s personality through and through. I love her and all of her cuteness!

Our kids’ are part of a pretty technological generation. Not quite sure if this was before or after they figured out how to Skype each other.

This is Lori. If you seriously stalk my blog and read every single one of my posts (which you should, people), then you probably remember her. Let me refresh you (you’re going to want to thank her after I give you this information), she started my blog for me. Yes. All of this amazingness that you see here is because of her. See what I mean? Go ahead. Tell her thank you by visiting her blog and checking her out. She also organized a play date with all my old church peeps while I was in town.

This fine young woman is Carmen. She introduced me to Shoreline Church where her husband is an associate pastor. Meeting her and getting to know her completely changed the direction of my marriage to my husband. We needed Jesus in our marriage but didn’t know where to start. On several occasions, her and her husband Dani counseled us through our journey discovering where a relationship with Jesus fit into our marriage. Thank you, Jesus for giving me this beautiful sister in Christ!

That little beauty you see on the left is Carmen’s sweet daughter, Jadyn. Aliana and her were inseparable when we lived in Florida. This is Aliana’s very, very best friend.

Paige came to the play date that day as well. I had to include this photo so you could see a close up her pretty face!

Florida was such a great trip filled with such great memories of the ones we love. Oh, Florida. Until we meet again.

Just remember, Florida friends; it’s not goodbye… it’s hasta luego.

Real Life Friend Request

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While I questioned posting my raw, truthful and painfully honest thoughts in my last post; I’m glad I did. It was hard to put myself out there to be so open and honest for millions a few people to see, but so many unexpected thoughts and emotions came from it from others, it was unbelievable.

I realized after many messages from a lot of you that I am, in fact, not alone. It’s bittersweet, really; while it makes me feel better that I’m not the only one, it’s also unfortunately disappointing. Why, if there are so many of us feeling alone are there so many of us feeling alone? Does that make sense? If you’re feeling lonely and I’m feeling lonely, where have we both gone wrong?

A lot of us, including myself, feel like we just don’t fit in anywhere. While it’s absolutely wonderful to have friends that you click with, it’s not okay to stay inside that clique. We spend so much of our time separating ourselves because of our differences so that we don’t make ourselves feel inadequate or uncomfortable. We need to be doing the exact opposite. People who have differences can add so much to our lives. We shouldn’t fear building relationships with people who are different than ourselves, rather welcome their differences as a way to empower each other and grow. We have so much to gain from people who are different than us.

Raise your hand if you have a handful of favorite blogs. Raise your other hand if you cruise other peoples’ Facebook pages more than you feel you should. Now, with both hands in the air, give yourself a high five because you now have something in common with me. Technology has taken so much away from actual friendships. We don’t need to sit down and talk to people because we can see their life spread all over the internet. Agree? Then like this post. Just kidding! Sending a ‘friend request’ is much easier than approaching someone face to face and saying, “Let’s get to know each other.” Since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve met some pretty incredible wives who have been through so much to get to where they are today. People have history and have overcome struggles. People have funny embarressing moments and interesting hobbies and talents. There is so much depth waiting to be discovered that cannot truly be experienced via Facebook. We need to limit our Facebook time and have true ‘social networking’ with more face-to-face time.

In case you’re wondering, yes; this is a blog post directly to myself. And maybe you, too. And maybe you could sit here and raise the same argument I’m having with myself at this very second and say, “But, it’s so hard. I’m so self-concious and shy.” Sound like you? Yeah. Me too. Or maybe you’re all like, “I have tons of friends and don’t need anymore because I’m so cool and awesome.” Guess what? We’re being selfish! Yes, I said selfish. It’s all a vicious cycle, really. Let me explain how. If we’re self-conscious, (whether positively or negatively), we’re not thinking of others and their needs. If you’ve been burned in the past (like me), you know it’s the pits. I have memories of someone very important to me telling me that I’m ‘weird’ and ‘not like other girls’. And maybe you, do too. But, you have so much to offer! If you put yourself out there, people will see your beautiful personality and want to be a part of it.

So, I ask you to join me in challenging yourself to create change. Meet someone new this week. In person. A real life friend request, if you will. Have a spontaneous conversation. Simply make someone smile. You’ll be ever so glad you did.

Be bold. Be yourself. Be a blessing.

16 Year Old Bride

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Not many of you know that I married my husband at the age of 16. While most of my friends were shopping for prom dresses, I was looking for a wedding dress, writing my vows, and searching for the perfect wedding band for my husband-to-be. You may be wondering what brought me to be a 16 year old bride. 6 years and 2 kids later, I’m opening up and talking about.

I grew up in a small town of less than 2,000 people. There is one grocery store, a handful of restaurants, a dozen churches and zero stop lights. There was no room for expansion, uniqueness, or flavor. It felt like a box. A trap. Leaving a growing, curious mind to suffocate in the dullness of agriculture and… well, that’s it. This town was in the buckle of the bible belt. Quaint, traditional churches on every street. The town was too small for me. I understand why my Mom and stepdad brought us there to live. We couldn’t have been more protected from the world if they had put us each in our own individual plastic bubbles.

I met Andrew when I was probably 10. Honestly, I didn’t care for him much. He picked on me a lot. When I was 14, my friend Destiny invited me over to her place for the evening to hang out. She had invited her crush over and Andrew tagged along. Somewhere along in the night, Andrew had found a pair of really thick glasses and had put them on magnifying his brown eyes. He had his right leg hiked up on a coffee table, his hands on his hips and was talking in a very nasally voice. We were all laughing hysterically at him. That’s the moment I knew he was the one for me. And so began the rest of our journey together. An up and down, topsy turvy journey.

Unfortunately, the religion that draped that little town kept hypocrisy in pretty tight. When Andrew moved from San Francisco when he was 12, he was one of about 5 non-white students in our school. He was treated like an outcast the moment his feet hit public school property. So, he acted up to fit the bill. This began a series of events (he even landed himself in a 6 month-long boot camp ran by the military for “unruly” teenagers) that led Andrew to have a bad reputation. I can’t say I didn’t like that about him. It was pretty hot, actually. So, it goes without saying that my mother did not want me to hang out with Andrew.

We ended up hiding our relationship. And, like any girl trying to impress a bad boy, I told my mom I was spending the night at a friends house and stayed out all night with him instead. Little did we know, my mom figured it out and took her concern to the police. She notified each of my friends that I was “missing” and she was looking for me and so were the cops. The next morning when I went home to try and sneak in my room, every door on our house was locked. This was unusual for us as we lived in such a small, safe town. So, I reluctantly rang the door bell. I could hear the angry steps of my mother walking to the door. She opened the door, crossed her arms, cocked her hip to the side and with her eye twitching, looked deep into my guilty, shivering soul and asked where I had been all night. Of course I tried to play it off, but she already knew. She told me I was never allowed to see Andrew again and called him to tell him the same.

I was a rebel, you know. When I was a teen, I believed that rules were meant to broken. And so I broke them. Each and every single one. I still saw him. Then finally we got caught again. This time, I was put on probation and signed a paper at the court house stating that I would not see Andrew. But, like I said I was a rebel and we kept seeing each other. For months it went on this way. Thankfully the two juvenile probation officers I had really liked me. So, they talked my mom into letting Andrew and I see each other and after 6 months, I was off probation and allowed to see my hunk of love.

In August of 2003, he left for Navy boot camp. I wrote him almost every single day. I still have every letter he wrote me while he was away. When he came home for Thanksgiving that year, he joined my family and I for Thanksgiving dinner. When everyone was busy, he took me in to my Grandma’s room and sat me on the bed, pulled out a ring and said, “You want to marry me, right?”. I said yes (duh). Even though the ring had sticky fingerprints all over it from apparently debating the proposal his whole trip, I loved it.

Our original plans were to wait until I turned 18 and had graduated high school. Then one day, out of frustration of being stuck in that small town, I told my Mom that I wanted to get married in June of 2004 and she said okay. I wouldn’t doubt if she was eager to wash her hands of me, I was tough. Maybe she thought that if I had a taste of the real world, I would come running back when it didn’t work out. When the time came, she signed the papers for the marriage license and I was on my way to becoming Mrs. Andrew Mac.

On June 19, 2004 I left that tiny town for Pensacola, Florida. I will honestly say, getting married at 16 was easy. Being married was the tough part. I think every marriage has obstacles, but ours had several different things about it that set us up for failure. We had little to no money, no faith, he was military and we were young. Pensacola was fun at the time. Looking back on it, I didn’t know how we did what we did and got away with it. All we did was party. The little money we did have went to bills, barbeques and beer.

In January 2006, we moved to Yokosuka, Japan two weeks after I turned 18. That’s when I found out what it’s really like to be a Navy wife. He was gone on the ship a lot. Shortly after we moved there, we had a surprise pregnancy. This was really hard for Andrew to deal with. He’s an only child and had never really dealt with babies before. So, we grew up quicker than we had anticipated. In the end it turned out to be perfect timing. Having Aliana saved us from who we were becoming.

After our three year tour was up in Japan, we moved here to the Emerald Coast. And here we are today; 6 years of marriage behind us and 2 beautiful daughters.

So, how did we do it? How did we stay together and not become another American divorce statistic? The short answer: Jesus.

For the first 5 years of our marriage, we were without faith. We were both Agnostic, not really believing in one thing or another. Looking back, we had a pretty dreary marriage. Kind of just existing with each other. Our lives were focused on our daughter, Aliana. Then, through a series of events (we’ll save that story for another post), we found Shoreline Church. That’s where we realized several different things about ourselves and our marriage.

In Romans 7:2 it says, “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” It doesn’t say, “a married woman is bound to her husband until the marriage gets difficult”. Nor does it say, “a woman is bound to her husband until she finds someone else who doesn’t act on his impulses, who puts his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, keeps the toilet seat down and cleans up after himself after he makes himself a snack.” On June 19, 2004 I promised to be his wife until death do us part. And I meant it. I thank God and give Him all the glory for the patience, forgiveness and understanding He has given me.

We have faith in Jesus Christ and the changes that He has made in our hearts and lives since we have starting following Him has been amazing. God gave me Andrew. Yes, it has been hard. But, I am blessed. I am honored to be his wife. He’s my hero, my best friend, was and always will be my partner in crime.

I used to hide the fact that I was married at 16. I usually would dread answering how old I was, which would in turn give away the age I was when we got married. I don’t like to be judged. But, now more than ever, I realize it’s a part of my story. It’s a part of who I am.

Thank you Jesus for my husband, our daughters, my life, and for my story and giving me the courage to share it.

EOD Graduation

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It’s official; I’m an EOD wife! And it feels so good. A huge, ginormous, giant weight has been lifted off my chest. My husband is an EOD Technician and I’m so stinking proud of him. This has been a long road and we are happy to start the next chapter in our life. Of course I took a bazillion pictures so this post is a little picture heavy. If you’re a sucker for a man in uniform like me, you’re going to love it.

This will be the last time we see this sign for a long time!

The ever so coveted EOD crab.

EOD Memorial where the graduation took place.

Andrew’s class of hunky sailor men waiting to get their EOD crabs pinned on.

Andrew and the Commanding Officer, CAPT Adam Guziewicz.

Making it official by pinning Andrew’s EOD crab on his uniform.

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Studly Sailor.

Our friend Josh’s dad gave him a big smooch during the ceremony. It was epic.

Officially an EOD tech. I think reality was sinking in when I was taking this picture. He’s so happy.

Look at all that chest candy.

Hello there all you men in uniform.

Andrew’s Mom, Sheila and his grandmother, Ann flew in for the graduation. We’ve enjoyed their company. I sure hope the feeling is mutual (insert nervous laugh here).

Hunter and Andrew are super cool. Dani and Carmen unfortunately didn’t get the memo about the cool shaka hand sign.

Guess who was ready to go home! Love those girls.

Meet Josh and Sarah. We were fortunate to have our paths in life cross with them. Unfortunately it happened at the end of our tour here in Florida. Just as soon as we met, it’s time to say goodbye. Guess that’s how things go in the military sometimes.

We love our EOD techs!

The whole class of 100N. Congratulations, boys!

I’m the happiest wife on the block. Handsome husband, beautiful kids. Today is a good day!

Now counting down the days until we move to Spain!

Leila’s Homebirth Video

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In celebration of Leila being 6 months old today, (and the fact it took me a while to figure out the video editing program) I’ve finally finished Leila’s homebirth video!

So, without further adieu…

You can also read her full birth story here.

Midwifery Care provided by Cindi Denbow, CNM, ARNP with Gentle Birth Options
Chiropractic Care provided by Dr. Sarah Leatherman with Health Source Fort Walton Beach