Shine Leila Shine

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I could never really describe to you our Leila. There’s so many layers to her personality; her being. She is my infinite happiness, my heartbeat. When I dig deep into my heart in search of words that I want you to know about my girl is that she’s hilarious, she’s the most kind person I’ve ever met and she has empathy as deep as the ocean. She’s our animal lover, our stop-and-smell-the-flowers kinda gal. She is the ultimate definition of caring and kindness. The world needs one billion Leilas and then some.

Since my girl was just a wee little gal, we experienced challenges in several different aspects. There were no naps, she always, always needed her Mama and change was always a challenge. Being a military family, there was always change, so our babe always was wading through a challenge one way or the other.

We noticed almost instantly that she was not a people-person. Shortly after, we realized she was an animal lover. She exhibits her love for animals even today; she reads the same book, repetitively, about animals and their habitats. Today, she has a cat and a dog and takes pride in caring for them. Her little hands have always been drawn to different textures and feels. Sounds have always been a struggle and there have been days that she was simply inconsolable.

Since moving to the United States, our girl has had some new behaviors pertaining to her anxiety. Not long after we enrolled her in public school here in the US, she started to have 5-10 panic attacks per week due to the stress. She came home from school exhausted from her little body being taken over by anxiety. Her smile became a rarity. She had lost her shine. The behavioral changes go beyond what I could ever have the capacity to explain.

We were fortunate to have the utmost support from her school administration. They were the first serious (I had had others) team of people to encourage me to consider that my sweet girl may be on the spectrum.

Through a series of tests and waiting… and a little more waiting… we were told that our girl has Severe Anxiety, Severe Depression and Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have always had my heart open to individuals with special needs, but to have a child labeled in this category is a whole new world.

We thank the Lord above for local resources that serve the local special needs community. Our girl is thriving with equine-assisted therapy, we are beginning our journey with Assisted Behavioral Analysis (ABA Therapy) and have some other therapies on deck.

Leila’s future is bright. We are fully believing our girl will shine once again. We have a score of therapies ahead and a heap of progress to claim. Not only do we believe the therapies will serve her well, we believe in prayer. If at any moment of your day, you remember our sweet girl, we humbly ask that you send a prayer up above on her behalf.

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We are thankful for our girl. God knows every inch of my heart and soul and I am blessed he has chosen me to mother her through this journey. I am privileged to call her daughter.

 

#shineleilashine

 

 

Grazalema: The Hike

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This past weekend, I got the hankerin’ for a change of scenery. Being Navy, our life usually brings us near the ocean. After almost 8 years of living near the sea, we’ve grown accustomed to beach life. The sand, sun and tan lines are wonderful, of course, but this Missouri girl sometimes misses spending a day in the woods. Living in Spain for over a year, I didn’t realize that we lived only 2 jolly hours away from the mountains. So, we decided to pack up just for a night and head to the mountains for a hike or two.

The drive there offered breathtaking scenery.

Okay, so the views were spectacular as you can tell. However, our American-sized SUV on European roads is one thing, but our American-sized SUV on tiny European mountain roads is a whole nutha story. The roads are built for one car but have two-way traffic. It was a nerve-wracking drive (not just for me, but for my man who put up with my whining the entire drive up the mountain), but totally worth it.

As soon as we could, we set off to find a trail. On a side note, both my husband and I are sporting HealthSource FWB t-shirts from our favorite chiropractors in Florida. Who here thinks that this should be their next billboard?

Babywearing while hiking is for hot Dads only. He melts me.

Aliana is our explorer. She’s the leader of our adventures and seeing new things is totally her element. And so is hiking. Obviously. Look at her. She loved  every single second of it.

The first trail we were on was beautiful, but eventually got too narrow for my liking with two small, precious children. We took off on another nearby trail to see what else we could find.

Turns out, we found a whole lot of sheep hiney trying to soak up what little shade they could to stay cool.

Oh, and the views didn’t disappoint on this trail either.

Turns out a day hiking mountainside with the three people I love most was exactly what I needed. A perfect day indeed.

Embracing a Good Mess

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In my pre-Mom years, when I saw a sticky-fingered, snot-nosed, messy child, I vowed that I would never be that Mom who would ever let that happen. When my oldest, Aliana was a toddler, she was the epitome of a girly girl. She was neat and tidy. I have saved the majority of her clothing (for hand-me downs) due to the fact that her clothes are spotless and stain-free. She had to be talked into using things like finger paint and playdough because she didn’t want to be “icky“. Clearly, her and I, were a match made in heaven as a mother-daughter pair.

And then…

I had Leila…

My sticky-fingered…

… (sometimes) snot-nosed…

… messy, messy, messy child.

Who eventually leveled out her older sister and taught us all to live a little and embrace a good mess every now and again.

Yeah, she steps in every puddle, plays in the dirt, gets a little too friendly with insects from time to time, but, hey, we like her thatta way.

And I can deal with being that Mom, too I guess.

Feria: My Girls

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Lately there has been much ado about Feria in Southern Spain. Don’t worry; if you’re not familiar with Feria, read on, my friend. There is much to learn! Since we live in Southern Spain, our household did not escape the Feria hype. Each town hosts their own Feria on different dates so there is much opportunity to Feria-hop. In the beginning of May, we went to the Rota Feria. My favorite place that I’ve been to for Feria is Jerez de la Frontera. The Jerez Feria is unique because of its’ showcase of horses. So, last weekend we got the girls in their fancy dresses and headed out to Jerez.

Last year I bought their dresses a little large so I could re-use them this year. Otherwise, I’d be tempted to spend over $100 per beautiful daughter and until money starts growing on trees, that just isn’t going to happen. If you’ve met my oldest daughter, Aliana for even 5 minutes, you’ll know that she is all girl. She loves pink, dancing and jewelry. She looks forward to Feria all year. She loves her Feria dress and would wear it every day if I let her. And why wouldn’t she?

She looks absolutely beautiful in her dress!

Before you go on thinking I forgot about my second lovely daughter…

You should know that she is much less friendly to the camera than Aliana is. And I’m cool with that.

Ahhh, that’s better!

If you follow my Facebook page, you would have seen two different versions of this photo: one in color and one in black and white. Turns out most readers loved the black and white version better and so do I! If you’re not on my Facebook page, click here, amigo.

I know she looks so serious in the above photo, but don’t worry…

… she’s still my silly girl!

 

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.

My Afternoon With Wild Worses

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Confession: I used to be a fan of (dramatic pause) Jon & Kate Plus 8. I know, I know… I’m without a doubt losing whatever cool points I had by admitting this. I assure you, I’m still cool (er, I hope). Anywho, on one of the episodes of Jon & Kate Plus 8, Jon & Kate took their 8 on a beach vacation. While at said beach, they took a tour to find wild horses. After I had watched that episode, ever so often I would think about the wild horses I had seen in that episode. Since I’ve been staying in Virginia, I realized that the wild horses were not too far from our temporary home in Virginia so I organized a mini-road trip to go see them.

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This rough and tough vehicle would be the vehicle we rode around in that afternoon. It was a chilly day, so me and my white buns stayed warm on the inside of the vehicle with my two little girls. I can’t say the same for my friend, Nicky who came with us that day. But, she’s English and you know what they say about English women…

Yeah, I don’t either.

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The wild horses are located in the small town of Corolla, North Carolina. The “road” to get the neighborhood you see above was a beach, a vehicle possessing 4-wheel drive is a must. In order to live in said neighborhood you’d have to be 1) filthy stinking rich 2) really serious about distancing yourself from the rest of mankind 3) tolerant to frequent horse doo-doo in your backyard.

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Let me give you a bit of information about these horses. Long, long ago when America was first being discovered by the Europeans, Spanish ships brought along their Spanish Mustangs. For an unknown reason, the Spanish ships sank and the horses were able to swim to shore and ever since then; these horses have made the North Carolina shores their home.

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You can see that these horses obviously don’t look like your ideal Spanish mustangs. Their growth is stunted and they have pot bellies due to the lack of proper nutrition. They’re also a little scruffy since they’ve recently had their winter coat grown in. There is a gentleman who looks after the horses every single day and keeps track of each one. If a horse falls ill, it’s rescued, cared for and later adopted.

The number of estimated horses in Corolla is around 144. We saw about a dozen that day.

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Our friend Nicky came with us to for the afternoon. She’s quite the horse-lover herself; even scheming about which one we could take back to Virginia. Thankfully, I successfully talked her out of it and she agreed to just act like a horse by letting Aliana ride on her back.

And that was my afternoon with wild horses. Now, can I have my cool points back?

The Meal With Turkey and Stuff

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Sometimes, as a military family, the location for a Thanksgiving dinner is less than ideal. In my 7 years of marriage, I have never cooked a turkey. Thanksgiving, to me, is a time to challenge my siblings and cousins to relentless games of Mario on the Nintendo for hours on end. And I guess, if I wanted to act like a grown up, I occasionally might ask a relative or two to catch me up to speed on how their life was going since I’d seen them last. Cooking a turkey has never been in my scope. Since Andrew is here in Virginia with his entire team on business, the ones who are married also have their spouses here. Since we are essentially the “Displaced EOD Spouses/Significant Others of Spain”, (you could probably guess that I just made that up) I decided that instead of spending Thanksgiving separated in our individual condos, we should spend it together. So, I successfully coerced two unsuspecting locals into letting me and 15 others spend Thanksgiving at their ginormous home. Of all the spouses, none of us have ever cooked a turkey. We had to call in special reinforcements.

Among the attendees, we had people from Texas, Michigan, California, Missouri, Florida and England. I was elated to be a part of a Thanksgiving where people came from so many different backgrounds and so many different traditions. Our friend, Nicole, made Oreo turkeys with her family every year growing up. This year, Nicole and her husband Chris, passed along that family tradition to Aliana.

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I’m thankful to have people in my life who appreciate and nurture my children. I’m also thankful to have people in my life who offer me their leftover Oreos and Reese’s.

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Remember the “special reinforcements” I mentioned above? Well, you’re lookin’ at her. No, not Leila. We have her around just for looks and entertainment. And Ali, well… she looks like she needs a nap. I’m talking about Andrew’s Mom, Sheila. She flew down from Missouri to spend Thanksgiving with us and yes, cook the turkey! We don’t have plans for her to visit in Spain anytime soon, so it was mighty convenient to have more than a dozen of our friends from Spain be in one place at one time for her to meet.

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Here’s the whole crew. Let me try to introduce you the best I can starting from the left: John, Cute Couple #1 (that means I didn’t catch their names), Landon, Lauren (who has the same last name as us; totally random!), Mike, Nicky (her first Thanksgiving dinner ever), Sheila, myself, Andrew, Leila, Aliana, Chris R., Ivy, Nicole, Chris B. and Cute Couple #2 (who happen to be the in-laws of my girl, Ivy).

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And there you have it, folks. That’s how we do a Thanksgiving in the military.

P.s. I have the cutest 21 month old in the whole wide world.