Sunday, December 23, 2018

A New Orleans Wedding (pt 2)

Here is part 2 of a 3 part series of posts about our family's getaway to New Orleans for my cousin's wedding earlier this month.

One part of weddings that I always stress about is the attire for different events. I never want to be the person that is underdressed, but being the overdressed person can also feel a bit awkward. When I saw that my cousin's wedding rehearsal dinner was at the New Orleans House of Blues, I knew I wanted to wear something festive and sparkly. I was told the attire was "cocktail". As a 34 year old woman who has attended multiple weddings and military functions, I know that "cocktail" means different things to different people. I wanted to make sure I was going to be appropriately dressed. I think I asked my cousin's fiancé a million times about the attire for her wedding festivities. I eventually went to Instagram and did a poll about the outfit I had chosen to wear, and literally 41 out of 42 people told me to rock the outfit I had chosen.

I chose a rose gold, sequined jumpsuit.
I was extra and sparkly.
I got compliments on it ALL night by friends, family, and random strangers in the French Quarter.
The only downside to this outfit was the 4inch heels I wore.
We had to walk from the wedding venue to the rehearsal dinner, and even a short 5 minute walk is horrible in 4 inch heels on cobblestone sidewalks. 

Sweet Dannika rocked her cowgirl boots, of course.
And I always say, no one looks better in a bowtie than Mattis.

I mean, please...

My sweet cousins Michael and Daniel! I can't believe they're grown ups now!
One thing that I love about weddings is that it brings people together.
It's tough for our family to get together because we are so spread out all over the country.
Even holidays are a hit or miss since we have significant others and extended family that we have to split our time with.
It was so nice to have my entire family together!

My mama and me.
My mom's prettier than yours....

The food was amazing.
Their hors d'oeuvres were even better.
I really only came for the food....and wine...

My handsome date and me!

Here we are with the bride and groom!

The boys decided to do some squats...

My sister and me!

I consumed a little more alcohol than I had planned, which made me hungry...
So on our way back to the hotel, we got some boudin off the street from a street vendor.
I honestly don't remember if it was tasty, but I'm going to assume it was.

We had an absolutely blast at the rehearsal dinner mingling with our family and meeting new friends. The food was amazing, and drinks were flowing (a little too much for me...yikes). The House of Blues New Orleans was amazing, and we'll definitely be going back if we find ourselves back in New Orleans!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A New Orleans Wedding (pt 1)

At the beginning of this month, our family took a short getaway to New Orleans, Louisiana to watch my "not so baby anymore" cousin marry his love! His (then) fiancé (now wife) asked for Dannika and Mattis to be a part of their wedding, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to be a part of their special day! My kids were over the moon that they could be in a wedding, and my sweet Dannika, at 9 years old, finally got asked to be in a wedding.

We were not disappointed about making the trip to New Orleans either. I had been there as a kid with my family, but hadn't been back since, so I was really excited. Nick has only driven through there, so it was cool to get to experience "the birthplace of jazz" as a family. I took over 230 photos during our short stay there, so I decided to break it up into the 3 separate posts from each day that we were there.

Below are photos from day 1.

Here is a photo of some of my cousins and me on a family vacay to Jamaica.
My cousin that got married is the third kid from the left (sitting next to me).
Obviously, this photo has nothing to do with our trip to New Orleans, but just to give you context of who in my family was getting married.
He really was "the baby".

The Mercedes Benz Super Dome where the Saints play.

Are Uber pics obligatory?

And because we were in LSU territory, we had to rep our Fighting' Texas Aggies!
After all, we DID win this year in a historic 7 overtime game!

We met up for lunch with a dear friend of mine at a New Orleans hotspot, Cafe Pontalba (in the French Quarter)
Dannika and I split the most delicious plate of red beans and rice with a side of authentic gumbo.
Nick had a traditional po boy and he gave it a 10 out of 10!
We highly recommend you check it out!
It a small cafe, so seating is tough to get, so prepare for a wait!

My friend Kelley and her son Waylon! 
I met Kelley through a small group at our church when we were all stationed in California.
Thanks to social media, we've managed to stay in touch!
It was such a treat to get to meet up with her and meet her sweet son!

I mean, can you say you've been to New Orleans without listening to some street musicians playing "When the Saints Come Marching In" in the middle of the French Quarter???!!!
Our kids had a blast dancing in the street listening to this awesome band play jazz music.

We popped into a seedy liquor store in the French Quarter because we wanted to show our kids a wholesome good time...
They really enjoyed the festive Mardi Gras masks.

Our kids had a blast there the first day. We got to walk around the French Quarter, dance to jazz music, have authentic New Orleans cuisine, meet up with old friends, and soak in the city. 

My cousin's wedding rehearsal dinner was at the House of Blues. I'll post about that tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

When Being a Stay at Home Mom Feels Unimportant

SIX days until Christmas. How did this happen? It was literally Thanksgiving like a week ago, right?! I thought I'd do a better job keeping up with this thing, but based on my last post, I have failed miserably. I feel like our family has been non-stop for the last month! Between Christmas shopping, weddings, kids class parties, working out, and being a wife, life hasn't been very generous with extra time for me.

It's actually shocking at how busy I am despite the fact that both of my kids are in school during the day, and I don't work. Every time I go to the nail salon, the nail lady ALWAYS asks me, "you off work today?" I always answer with, "I'm a stay at home mom", to which they reply with a judgmental tone, "what do you do all day when your kids are in school?"

It shouldn't bother me, but it does. I think I tend to compare my life as a mom now to my former life as a Marine, and that is a dangerous slope to go down. My life's purpose has changed drastically in the last 5 years, and there are days when I dwell on my former life as a career woman that led our nation's finest. My current life consists of volunteering in my son's Kindergarten classroom with a bunch of kids who don't wash their hands, but constantly want to touch me. Oh, and being the doting "trophy" wife to my wonderful Marine hubby (insert sarcasm).

Does this mean I wish I was back in the Marine Corps? Absolutely not. I love my life. I love being able to be so involved in my children's lives and in their schools.

 I love walking into my son's classroom to volunteer and see his face light up at the sight of me. 

I am fully aware at how blessed I am to be able to live a life where I do not have to work to provide for our family. I love baking and cooking goodies to send to work with my husband for his Marines. I love having dinner ready as soon as my husband walks in the door from a long day's work. But this life is so drastically different than just 6 short years ago that I still have days when I don't feel "important". I hear this is a common feeling amongst veterans that are finding their way in civilian life after service.

Anyway, I am hoping in the new year that I can finally get this blog updated to match my "not so new anymore" domain name. I thought of switching it over to Wordpress, but I'm pretty happy and comfortable here on blogger. My content is not changing, and this is just a little side hobby that I have, so staying here just seems right. I will probably post a "year in review" post towards the end of the month before 2019.

If you want to see what is going on in our life, just follow me on instagram @semperag_blog

Hope everyone is having a stress free and cheerful holiday season!

Here is our 2018 Christmas card (front and back)
Thanks to Shutterfly, of course!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Happy 243rd Birthday, Marines!

If you have lots of friends who are Marines, then your social media feed is probably being blown up with "Happy Birthday, Marines!" memes. If you haven't had the honor and privilege to be associated with our awesome legacy, then it is probably annoying to you, and you're probably rolling your eyes at the sight of every Marine Corps meme you encounter.

If you ask most military members that are not Marines when their branch's birthday is, they probably can't tell you without doing a quick google search first. I have friends in all branches of the military, and they always seem to be attending random balls throughout the year celebrating random things. For instance, I have noticed a lot of the other branches do separate balls based on the birth of their units or MOS's (Ranger ball, engineer ball, etc. etc. etc.). Not the Marine Corps. We ALL celebrate the birth of our Corps on November 10th of every single year. The thing I love most about being a Marine is that no matter what our jobs are, at the end of the day, we are all Marines. I've never met a Marine recon guy (our special forces) introduce themselves like, "hey, I'm recon in the Marines." It's always just, "I'm a Marine." But you bet your ass when you meet an Army Ranger, the first thing they mention is, "I'm an Army Ranger." I get it, theres a lot of pride in being an elite Ranger in the Army. I think it's cool that the entire Marine Corps sees themselves as being elite by just being a Marine.

Nick and I celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday this past Thursday here in Yuma. It was our first ball here, and Nick's first ball outside of 1st Marine Division! He is officially part of Marine Aircraft Group 13. It was held at the Civic Center on a baseball field! It was our first outdoor ball, and it was HUGE. There were roughly 2800 people there to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday! This time of year in Yuma is GORGEOUS, so the thought of an outdoor ball wasn't surprising to me. However, being a "desert newbie", I forgot that the evenings in the desert can get pretty chilly. I chose to go with a short dress this year instead of a long gown because it was an outdoor ball.

The dress I wore is a Nha Khanh, and I'll definitely be wearing her more!
Her dresses are stunning.
I'm also pretty impressed with my arms. 
I've been on a new workout plan since we moved here, and I'm seeing some pretty awesome results!

And you can't go wrong with a dress that has pockets...

And we always have to do a "Gig 'em" photo.

The eagle, globe, and anchors (on his collar) that Nick is wearing on his blues actually belonged to an artillery officer that fought in Okinawa during World War II.
They were gifted to him by my former Ordnance Officer, Capt Najmulski.

Like I mentioned, 2800 people. 
It was packed.

The birthday cake.
It is tradition that the guest of honors gets the first piece of cake, the oldest Marine present gets the second piece of cake, then the oldest Marine gives the youngest Marine a piece of cake to symbolize the passing down of experience and knowledge.
This part always makes me feel old.
The youngest Marine at our ball this year was born in 1999.
1999, y'all.
I was a freaking freshman in high school.

Nick and David.
They went to The Basic School Together and Ground Supply Officer school together!

Nick and the Guest of Honor, Brigadier General Borgschulte.
We even got the General to throw up a Gig 'em!

What a fun night to celebrate our amazing legacy. Each year during this time, I am humbled that I got to have a small part in it. I am grateful for those Marines who have gone before me, and those who will go after me.

Happy 243rd Birthday, Marines!

Monday, October 29, 2018

My Love Story

I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. As a Marine family, we have a unique opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Since we've moved to Yuma, we've started to meet new people, and have had people over at our house twice already for dinner. I feel like food and wine is the best way to bring a new group of people together. I love hearing people's stories about how they grew up, where they grew up, and how they ended up where they are now.

The question that Nick and I get ALL. THE. TIME. when we meet new people is, "How did y'all meet?" (or if they're not from the south, "How did you guys meet?"). I think people are intrigued because we didn't meet in college, we are from two completely different states, and because I was a Marine. In his former life, Nick was an artilleryman (an MOS that was, at the time, only males). So people get curious to know how this chick from the airwing landed her this sexy artilleryman. So I thought I'd share our "love story", because it's my favorite (duh).

Also, if you already know us really well and know how we met, you can totally skip this blog post, cause it's long.

SO....Here. We. Go.

I returned from Iraq at the end of 2007. I had just been promoted to Sgt in Iraq, and on my second enlistment. I knew that if I wanted to be promoted to SSgt before my 8 year mark hit, I would need to do a special duty assignment (recruiting duty, drill instructor duty, embassy duty). Recruiting duty was almost a guaranteed pathway to SSgt because it is considered one of the most difficult assignments, so I volunteered to go on recruiting. This was a big deal, because no one volunteers for recruiting. No one wants to put themselves through that hell.

My request for recruiting duty was quickly approved (before I could change my mind), and I had orders to report to recruiters school at MCRD San Diego in April of 2008. One of the prerequisites for a Sgt to get promoted to SSgt is to attend Sgts Course (an intense, month long leadership course). Since I would not be able to attend Sgts Course while on recruiting duty, my command let me go in February of 2008. I met a guy in my class that ended up liking me more than I liked him.  My birthday is in March, and I had zero plans. Another female Marine that I worked with agreed to go out with me to a bar called Hennessey's in Dana Point, CA to celebrate my birthday with me (and the guy I met in Sgts Course). He had practically invited himself when he found out I was going out. The night sucked, because the guy was being a jerk to me, and I just wanted him to leave. He was super jealous and possessive, and that wasn't ok with me. I made me decision that night that whatever "thing" I had going on with this guy needed to end ASAP.  I did my best to keep my distance and avoid him all night. I ran into a friend at that bar who was hanging out with two of his friends. I told him about my frustrations with this guy that had crashed my birthday, and he let me hang out with him for a little bit. Nick happened to be one of his friends. He was wearing an American Eagle polo shirt and his Alabama hat (boo!) slightly crooked on his head. I had been drinking, and was a little drunk, and all I remember is taking his hat off his head and flirting with him. We didn't exchange phone numbers or anything, and our meeting was brief at the bar. The night ended, and I remember leaving the bar in tears because of the jerky guy that ruined the night for me. The cute guy I met at the bar in the Alabama hat was just a distant memory. I didn't expect to ever see him again.

That following Monday, I was scheduled to go to the rifle range for the week for my annual rifle qualification. My unit always shot at a range called Wilcox range, but they were having shooting matches there that week. I was switched to go shoot at Edson Range where Marine recruits who are attending boot camp at MCRD San Diego shoot. The first week of rifle qualification is called "snap in" week. Snap in week is when Marines just get refamiliarized with the shooting positions for qualification, and make sure our weapons shoot straight. We basically just lay around in the grass for hours at a time shooting pretend bullets at pretend targets painted on a barrel. (see below)

I was bored, and counting down the hours when we could turn our weapons back into the armory. When the time came, I eagerly got up, adjusted the sling on my rifle, and started to get my things together to turn my rifle in. That's when this tall Marine walked up to me, and asked, "Were you at Hennessey's this past weekend?"

I looked up and realized it was "Mr. Alabama hat"! I was mortified that he was seeing me in my hot mess state....dirty cammies, probably a little smelly, sweaty, no make up....oh my Lord. 
We struck up a short conversation, and he left. I found out he was a drill instructor, and he was also qualifying on the same range as me because this was one of the only times he had time to qualify. His recruits were at Camp Pendleton for the month for "2nd phase", when recruits are bussed from MCRD San Diego to Camp Pendleton to do field training and rifle qualification. 

That week, Nick always chose to snap in next to me. He always walked back to the armory with me. What's funny is that he was a SSgt at the time, and I was a Sgt. Because he was a SNCO, he was allowed to drive his weapon in his personal vehicle to the armory to turn his weapon in. The walk to the armory from the range was long (especially after a long, hot day in the sun), and I thought it was so weird he was choosing to walk. I asked him why he didn't just drive, and his response was, "because I want to show all these other SNCO's that they're weak." I later found out that he was only walking because he wanted to spend time with me. 

Those two weeks on the rifle range, we became friends. As one of the only females on the entire range, he thought it was hilarious watching every single male range coach try and "coach" me into being a better shooter. We became MySpace friends. Yes, we are old, and MySpace was a thing when we met. I remember messaging him back and forth on MySpace after a long day of shooting. I wish I still had my account so I could read those messages. I don't know why, but I vividly remember one message I wrote him asking what he was up to. His reply was, "I just came home from a run, and I'm eating an apple and watching the sun set." I don't know why that message sticks out in my head, but it does.

This was the very end of March, and by April I was in recruiters' school at MCRD San Diego, and to say our relationship moved fast would be an understatement. Our first official date, he invited me over to his apartment for dinner. He tried to make me grilled chicken, but his propane tank ran out before the chicken cooked all the way. He also served me country crock, microwaveable mashed potatoes, and frozen vegetables that he heat up in a pan. Because he knew I enjoyed wine, he even splurged on a nice red. Ok, it was Lambrusco, and it's like $6.99 for a huge bottle. It's overly sweet, and it's not good. Either way, I thought he was sweet, and gave him an A for effort. We watched Top Gun after he made me watch the Michael Jackson Thriller video. I still laugh when I hear Thriller on the radio or see the video pop up somewhere. It was just so random that he would want to show me this random Michael Jackson video from the 80's. We were in love...after only officially dating for like 2 weeks. 

At a recruiters' school class BBQ.
Yes, that's an Ed Hardy tank top I am wearing (it was very trendy then), and yes, Nick is wearing an Alabama hat). 

Meanwhile, in recruiters' school, we were preparing to find out our duty station assignments (where we would be recruiting at). I was a solid candidate to end up in San Diego, because I had volunteered for this duty. Volunteers usually get priority when it comes to duty station choice for recruiting duty. I had already gone and spoken to the recruiter instructor for San Diego, and they had already let the schoolhouse know that they wanted me. On the day we were to find out our assignments, I was told I was going to Duluth freaking Georgia. WHAT?! CLEARLY, this has to be a mix up. This is not possible. I marched my butt into my instructor's office, and basically said, "WTF?!" He then explained that the recruiting station in Georgia was in desperate need of a Korean speaking recruiter, because of the heavy Korean population there. There was one other Korean speaking recruiter in recruiters' school with me at the time, and my first thought was, "why me, and why not him?" He had not volunteered for this assignment. He was forced to be here. Then my instructor told me it was because he was married, and owned a home in San Diego county. What??? I'm being punished for being single and not owning a home? Stop it. I'm pretty sure I cried.

I went to Nick's apartment that evening, and we started talking about a long distance relationship....coast to coast. I was so upset, and angry that the Marine who didn't choose this duty got what he wanted because he was married and owned a home. After a few days of letting that news simmer in my head, I finally just blurted out, "We should get married. They have a year to put us within 100 miles of each other if we're a dual active duty couple. They'll have to send me back to California since the closest recruit training base to Duluth is Parris Island (300 miles away)." The details after I blurted that out are fuzzy, but Nick didn't hesitate to say, "ok, let's do it." We booked a round trip flight to Vegas that Friday and returning Saturday. We weren't going to Vegas to party or gamble. We were going there to get married...oh, and we didn't tell anyone. Not our parents, not our friends, and not our commands.

After Nick and I got off work on Friday (May 31, 2008), and we both headed to the airport together. We stopped at a mall jewelry store to buy two cheap wedding bands, and boarded our flight to Vegas. We checked into a super seedy motel, and headed to the Hooters hotel to have dinner (we were super classy people). We had dinner. I drank key lime pie martinis, and Nick drank Newcastle beer. 

Photo of us at the bar at Hooters.
I wore a tube top from Express, express boot cut jeans, wedges, and had my Louis Vuitton on my arm!

 We grabbed a cab (this was before Uber and Lyft), and asked the cabdriver to take us to the courthouse. The courthouse in Vegas is open 24 hours a day. We got there probably around 10 in the evening, and stood in line with a bunch of inebriated people getting their marriage licenses to get married. In fact, the couple in front of us in line told us that they had just met that night, and were getting married. They were extremely drunk. I thought to myself, "I can't believe I am doing this here." After getting our marriage license, we headed back to our cab, and asked the driver to take us to any chapel that does weddings "on the go". He took us to "the Little White Chapel", where Nick and I were married by a Japanese man named "Alejandro". I think we laughed through the entire "ceremony", because of how absurd this entire thing was. 

 Right before we got married.
If you can see behind us, those are pews.
Tiny Vegas chapel!

 Afterwards, we went back to the Hooters hotel to their country bar, had a drink, danced to one song, told a random couple that we just got married, and headed back to our motel. We were flying back to San Diego Saturday morning. We woke up early Saturday, and flew back to San Diego as a married couple, and Nick went into work.

That following Monday, I announced to my instructor that I got married. I'll never forget the look on his face when I broke the news to him. I was about to raise some hell in recruiters' school. By me getting married, they were almost forced to switch my orders to San Diego, and send the other Korean speaking Marine to Georgia. The SgtMaj of the schoolhouse called me into his office, and yelled at me. Other students in my class were giving me major shade. "How could you screw over that other guy?" When in reality, I hadn't screwed him over. He screwed me over. People told us our marriage was fraudulent because they assumed we only got married so that I could remain in San Diego. I didn't really care though. I loved Nick, and I was going to get to be with him (oh, and recruit where I originally wanted to recruit at).  Oh, and we still hadn't told our families.

I checked into RS San Diego in June, where the CO yelled at me for causing such a ruckus in recruiters school. She was so scary, and I'm pretty sure she made me cry. I'm pretty sure she hated me. She transferred me to Orange County, just 45 minutes north of San Diego (praise the Lord) where I spent my time as a recruiter. Nick and I got a tiny 800 sq ft apartment in San Clemente filled with IKEA furniture, and were the happiest we had ever been.

The story of telling our families deserves its' own blog post, so I'll have to share that some other time. We have been happily married for 10 years, and have lived in 6 addresses between 4 states. We have added two awesome kids to our family. To this day, we don't regret our decision to elope. We have been asked many times by my family to have a big wedding, and we always kindly decline. We love our story, and its' humble beginnings. I love that we don't have the conventional love story that most people have. We knew each about 2 months before getting married. For some reason, I always tell people we only knew each other a month, but now that I've typed this story out, I realize it's actually 2 months. Either way, it was a pretty whirlwind romance, and I wouldn't have it any other way.     

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Church Shopping

One of the many struggles that we face as a family when we move is finding a home church. You can actually read about our struggles of finding a home church when we were stationed in New England here. If you are a believer, then you understand the importance of finding a place of worship that you can call "home". For me personally, I need a place to go to every week where my soul can be fed and nurtured. I want my kid's faith to grow, and I want them to enjoy going to church every week.

I grew up hating to go to church. When I was old enough to stay home by myself, I faked being sick more times than I remember so that I wouldn't have to go. Looking back, I realize I hated going, because the church my family attended did not fulfill my spiritual needs. It was a Korean Presbyterian church. My parents are Korean immigrants, so it was the right fit for them. They were among other Korean speaking believers. But as a first generation American born child, going to "Sunday school" every week with the extremely small group of youth who were also first generation Americans just wasn't right for me. I wanted to go to the "normal" English speaking churches that all my friends from school attended. I wanted to attend youth group with my friends from school. I oftentimes felt left out because our church simply did not have the programs that the bigger American churches offered. I have used my past experience as a learning tool as a mom. When we look for a home church, one of the first things I want to know about is the children's ministry. I grill my kids about their experience in kids church. I don't want them growing up hating church because Nick and I choose a church that only we like.

I have put off trying out a new church since moving here with the excuse that "we are still settling in".  When it reality, I am just anxious about being the "new guy" at a new church. I finally told myself yesterday that I had beaten a dead horse with that excuse, and committed to testing out our first church here in Yuma. I found a southern baptist church on Google that was only 5 minutes away from our house. Their facebook page and their website looked promising. From their website, it looked like a contemporary church with a great children's ministry.

Our family got up this morning bright and early, and got ready for church. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Nick didn't hesitate to say, "I don't think you're gonna like it here." I don't know why he got that vibe, but I tried to stay positive and told everyone that we were just gonna try it out. As soon as we walked in, I realized that 90% of the congregation were senior citizens. I felt like I was walking into my grandparent's church. Then we were informed that there was no Sunday school for our kids. They do Sunday school an entire hour earlier than the regular service, so my kids were going to have to sit through an adult service with me. I told my kids before walking in that we were just trying this church out, and that if we didn't like it, we'd try another church next Sunday. My sweet, sweet son blurted out to the door greeter (a sweet old granny), "My mom said we are just trying this church out, and that if we don't like it, we would go to another church next Sunday." (Insert nervous chuckle from me and a face palm). Anyway, our family took seats in the back of the church, and after sitting there awkwardly for 5 minutes, we just walked out. Actually, Nick had taken Mattis outside to look at a water fountain they had, and Dannika and I basically ran out. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, and literally rushed out so fast. It was extremely uncomfortable and extremely awkward. I am praying no one recognizes me at the grocery store from that church and silently judges me.

So church #1 was a big fail. I'm sure it is a lovely little church, but I am a strong believer that we need to do fellowship with at least a few people in the same stage of life as us. The people at that church were about 3 to 4 decades ahead of our family. My sister found a few churches for us via Google search, and we have a little list of potential maybes for next Sunday. Please pray for our family as we continue to find a church that we can call home!

Follow me in Instagram @semperag_blog !

Friday, October 19, 2018

Desert Dwelling

We made it to Yuma! I know it's been a hot minute since I've posted on here. I do so much life sharing on Instagram (@semperag_blog) that I sometimes feel this blog is unnecessary. But then I get the itch to write, so I guess my little corner of the web shall remain as is.

Our move from College Station to Yuma was pretty smooth. Nick and my son made a father/son road trip out of the move, and towed my car on the back of a trailer with his truck. Dannika and I chose to fly, and we made it out here a day after the boys did. Our stuff arrived mostly undamaged, and we are so grateful for that. I had been reading all sorts of horror stories about military moves this year. I guess this has been one of the worst PCS seasons for many military families. Lots of families missing furniture, receiving their things grossly damaged, and the list goes on. We are in the minority I guess when it came to PCS season this year (praise Jesus!).

Yuma is a small desert town located between the California and Mexico border.

It's mostly a military/retirement community. There are lots of "snowbirds" down here (retirees that move here from colder climates just for the winter to escape the cold). As a Marine, I have been here before for training, and from what I remember (before moving Here) is that this place is full of bad chain restaurants catered for its' young military population and older retirement population (still true). Since actually moving here, I have realized that there is a lot more to Yuma than I realized. I can't say that I LOVE it here yet, but God has shown me glimpses of how great life will be here for us.

We decided to buy a house out here. Our house is one of the things that I LOVE about this place. I will have to do a separate house tour post soon. But I am in love with our house. It has so much character, and it is definitely a place that I am going to really enjoy my time at. Nick also promised me a pool, so I'll keep y'all updated on that situation. Hey, if you're gonna drag me out to Yuma, Arizona, you betta get yo girl a pool!

Our kids school is ok. We came from such a top tier school district that we knew coming here, it'd be unfair to try and compare the school here to the one we came from. BUT...Arizona has some of the lowest paid teachers in the entire nation, and when you invest so little into your educators, the quality of education goes down. Not because the quality of teachers, but because of the lack of resources and funding that teachers here get to do their jobs. It's sad really. I have already been disappointed by the school here, and we have put our kids on waiting lists for a public charter school here and also a private school. We are hoping we only have to deal with public schools here for this school year only.

Anyway, I'll give more updates on our life here. I just wanted to give everyone an update about our short two weeks here so far! I am so grateful to finally be together as a family, and there truly is nothing better than that (even in Yuma!).

Thursday, September 6, 2018

3 Tips on Making Solo Parenting Doable

It's officially September, and in 8 days, our family will be whole again! By the time Nick comes home, we will have officially lived separately for 354 very long days. Looking back on the last year, I truly appreciate the sacrifice that Nick made when he agreed to the decision to go on with his training without his family with him. I'm not saying that it was easy for me (or my children), but it was definitely harder for Nick. I know boredom, and missing out on our lives for past year has really been rough for Nick. It's been tough on our kids to not have their dad around every day too. I pray that one day, they can look back at this year we got to spend in good ole College Station, and truly appreciate the extra time we got to spend here.

Over the last year, I've really had to readjust my life to parenting "solo". I never use the word "single parent" in my case, because I'm not a "single parent". I have a loving and supportive partner who more than provides for our family financially and emotionally. There is no child support or child custody arrangement involved (which many single parents deal with). Before Nick left, I was used to having a lot of help with our kids. Nick does A LOT for me around the home when he can. He cooks, does dishes, cleans the house, bathes the kids, gets them ready for bed, and always remembers to pour me a glass of wine. It was also nice to have another person to share carpool duties with. On days I had a lot going on, just having Nick to pick up D from gymnastics, and grab Mattis from school was so helpful. When Nick left, I had to figure life out alone, and there was definitely an adjustment period.

I thought I'd give y'all 3 tips on how I "solo parent" to make my life a little less stressful. These things really help me to "sail my ship smoothly"!

1. Structure. I'm a former Marine (of 10 years), and married to a still active duty Marine who just happens to be a former drill instructor. We love structure in our lives! No, we don't run our home like a boot camp, but there is definitely a lot of structure. When Nick is gone, I go into overdrive when it comes to structure. I schedule everything in our home down to the last minute.

For example, in the mornings, I am up at 5am no matter what. I need that extra hour before my kids get up for some "me" time. I throw on my favorite podcast (will blog about that soon) while I pack my kids' lunches, write them notes, get dressed, and go through their folders to see if I need to sign anything. This takes about 20-25 mins. I spend the last 30 minutes of my morning alone reading a devotional. My kids are up by 5:50am (it gives them 10 minutes to get up out of bed), and by 6:20, they've had their breakfast. They know if they're not done by 6:20, mama isn't happy, and I'm not messing around. I don't let them watch TV while eating breakfast or have screen time (because that distracts them). Their sole purpose in life is to eat. By 6:35, they've brushed their teeth and gotten dressed. I brush their hair, pack their backpacks, and make sure they're ready. This gives us a good 30 minutes to relax before we need to be out the door. I let them watch a TV show, or play a game on their tablet. Our mornings are stress free and calmer because we are not rushing to get out the door to make it to school on time. No one is yelling to "Put your shoes on!" or "Where are your socks?!?" or whatever other phrase I have oftentimes yelled at my kids when we are rushing to get out the door. 

Out the door with plenty of time to take photos on our way to school!

Because I am doing this alone, having this structure keeps us all on task, and it helps me keep my sanity in tact. I don't have Nick here to help me with the load, so having a tight schedule really helps me make sure everything that needs to be done, gets done!

2. Me Time. I can't tell you how much I used to love days when I'd tell Nick, "you got the kids for a few hours. I just want to roam around Target." Being a solo parent gives you less alone time. The first few months Nick was gone, I realized I was starting to go a little crazy. One particular day, my kids were being the complete opposite of the angels that I knew them to be (hahahaha!), and I had lost my screaming at my kids like a crazy banshee. I sat on the floor of my closet with the doors shut, in the dark, with a glass of wine, and cried sobbed. I realized that I hadn't done anything for myself since Nick had left. I booked a baby sitter, texted all my friends, and planned a girls night. I try to make a genuine effort to hire a sitter, and go out with my friends for dinner every once in a while.

Me and my friends on our last "girls night out".
Also, I go the gym every. single. day. I don't skip days. Some days, I go twice a day. But that time in the gym is my favorite time of the day. It's where I do my thinking, and just let all my frustrations out.

This is my gym fam. They really are like family! 

3. Pray. You know that 30 minutes I have to myself in the early mornings?  I read a devotional, and I pray. It really sets the tone for my day, and having some one on one time with God gives me a lot of peace. I often get stressed and anxious about everything that I need to do alone with my kids for the day. It's nice to get the reassurance from God that "I'm going to be ok", because He's handling it for me. I don't believe in that phrase, "God will never give you more than you can handle." That is lie. This past year has been WAY more than I could handle. However, through prayer and through His grace and mercy (lots of mercy), I have figured out how to handle this life that I've been chosen to live. I have fallen apart multiple times throughout this past year, and have questioned my life choices (more than once). Every time, God has found a way to show me that "this too shall pass".

There a several other ways that I have found to make solo parenting doable for me. I'll continue to write about it as I think about them. Everyone knows that I am a hot mess, so if I can do this, anyone can. It's just a matter of finding YOUR balance, and what works best for your family!

Friday, August 31, 2018

When Your Kid Grows Up While Daddy is Away

This is Dannika when we first moved here to College Station. She was 5 years old, and had just started Kindergarten.

This is Dannika today. She is 9 years old, and just starting 4th grade.

Today is the first time I looked at Dannika and thought, "Oh my gosh! She is really a 'big' girl!" Since 3rd grade, she is significantly more mature. She has grown so much emotionally, physically, and mentally. It's hard to grasp that she is the same little girl in the first photo. 

During parent orientation for third grade (last year), I remember her teacher saying that "3rd grade is when they seem to grow the most." I nodded in agreement, and went on with my life. But in the blink of an eye, it happened. I looked at Dannika today, and realized that she is a completely different girl than she was a year ago. She is SO much more mature. I can leave her at home alone (with Mattis) for an 1-2 hours during the day while I run errands, go to the gym, etc. If Mattis is misbehaving, she texts me from her iPad. She sets her own alarm in the mornings. She picks out her own clothes. She's like a miniature grown up. 

If you keep up with my life, you know that Nick has even gone since September of last year. He's come home for most holidays, but for the most part, he has been living in a different state than us. This is nothing new for our family. As a military family, I have spent more time alone than with my husband due to his (and my) commitment to the Marine Corps. Nick missed countless holidays and milestones in our family because of the Marine Corps. But, this year...has been the hardest. You would think that him being in combat would be the hardest, but honestly, it wasn't. I think when he was in Afghanistan, I went into "la la land". I refused to believe the conditions he was in, and refused to think that he could possibly not come home. I lived in my safe bubble, to protect my heart from the possible worst news...every military wife's worst nightmare...the "knock at the door". 

Thinking about Dannika today just made me so sad that Nick missed an entire year of her life when she did so much growing. We did our best to make him a part of our life while he was away through phone calls and FaceTime, but it's never enough. He's not home for dinner time shenanigans, bath times, bedtime conversations, family movie nights, family game nights, ice cream dates, etc. etc. etc. I can go on and on. But my heart is most broken of the fact that he missed this entire year that our daughter grew so much.

I know it doesn't get easier. Everyone keeps reminding me that puberty is on the horizon, and that I need to enjoy this time while she likes me. But I can't think about the horrors of puberty as a military wife. Our "right now" sucks because we've been apart from the better half of our family (and trust me...Nick is the better half...I'm a hot mess). 

Anyway, regardless of all of this "blog vomit", I know that our life as a military family is for God's glory. Although, my prayers sometimes consist of a lot of "why me" and "you must hate me", I have comfort in knowing that I am the daughter of a King who allows me to be mad at Him. He allows me to yell at Him. He allows me to use Him as a "punching bag". And yet...He still chooses to love me, pursue me, comfort me, and be my friend. 

"I can never escape from your Sprit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there." (Psalm 139:7-8)

I hope everyone has an awesome Labor Day Weekend! Follow me at on Instagram @SemperAg_blog , and message me!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Celebrating Birthdays as a Military Kid

I thought of a million ways to start this post, but let me just say...

"Today is my sweet baby boy's 5th birthday!!!!"

It sounds so cliché, and I feel like every parent says the same thing every year on their kids' birthdays, but...

"Where does the time go?!"

It literally feels like yesterday when we moved here to Texas, and Mattis was barely 1! He took his very first steps in our home here, and here he is, 4 years later. Mattis is my comedian. He keeps me laughing every single day with his funny antics and hilarious insights about life and his circumstances. His love language is physical touch (physical touch is the lowest on the ladder for me), and he shows me every day that human physical contact is important. He is quite the charmer with his adorable smile, and nobody is a stranger to him. He is sensitive, and wears his heart on his sleeve (just like his mama and his sister). He loves playing with Ninja Turtles and the Hulk at bath time, but also loves playing with his sister and her American Girl dolls. He loves watching YouTube videos of kids opening toys (eye roll). He is a dreamer and a lover of life. He shows me not to take life too seriously. Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet baby boy!

Here is our family when he FIRST moved here to Texas!

Here is my sweet birthday boy, today as a big 5 year old!

This isn't the first birthday that Nick has missed. I can't count the number of birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions that Nick has missed due to commitments to the Marine Corps. I distinctly remember Dannika's 1st birthday. Our first child's first birthday, and he was in Afghanistan. I remembered how disappointed he sounded on the phone when he called me on her birthday all the way from Afghanistan. I vividly remember him trying to sound excited and up beat as he Skyped us on her birthday, but as his wife, I could see right through his facade of fake emotion. Truth is, he was sad he couldn't be with us to celebrate such a milestone birthday. It never gets easier either. Every time he has been away for a big milestone or holiday, I get the same Nick on the phone. A father trying his best to have a positive attitude, and trying his best to exude some sort of excitement on the phone or FaceTime as he hears his family celebrating miles and miles away. But I know. I've been married to the guy long enough to know when he's trying to hide his disappointment for not being here with us. 

But this is our life. 

Nick texted me today, and specifically asked me to "...make sure Mattis knows that I really want to be there for his b day. I can't tell you how many birthdays {insert name of someone in his life} missed and never cared about calling or doing anything for us." 

Then I my car...after working out at the gym. Sweaty and crying is not a good combination for me. Not good for my skin...

It's tough on me as a mom to try and make things like birthdays super special for my kids. I have a lot of mom guilt, because their dad's not here. So I make up for it by going a little overboard with birthday celebrations. But in my 10 years as a military spouse, I have come to realize it's even harder on the spouse that is gone. Imagine watching your family "do life" from afar, and there's nothing you can do to be there with them. It sucks. I remember being deployed, and while I wasn't married or had kids, I remember watching everyone "back home" living their lives, while I was just "there". Someone once told me, "When you're deployed (or away from family), life stops for you. But life goes on for everyone else."

So, what do we do to make it easier?

FACETIME AND PHONE CALLS! It's all we got! I make it intentional to FaceTime Nick when we sing Happy Birthday (at 6am), and we call him and FaceTime him multiple times throughout the day. We try and make him a part of our celebration as much as possible! I constantly remind the kids of how much he loves them, and wishes he were here. 

As a seasoned military family, we've come up with creative ways to include our Marine when he's gone. I think it makes my kids appreciate him so much more when he is home, and it makes him appreciate us so much more when he's with us. At the end of the day, we are super proud of Nick. All the time he's spent away is worth it to us. He has one of the most noble professions in the world, and I proudly stand by him!

Here are some photos from Mattis' special day!

I went to HEB (our local grocery store) at 9:30 the night before to buy candles, because I realized we had no candles for his Birthday donuts.
I woke up at 5:30 to go to Shipley's Donuts to buy him donuts before he woke up.

I'm also going to add...
This dang "Happy Birthday" banner that I bought at Target was a PAIN IN THE BUTT to put together...
It literally took me 20 minutes....

 We started with sparklers....
This photo, I forced him to smile (by screaming...loudly talking..."SMILE MATTIS!!!"

This was his actual face during the entire time the sparkler was lit until it burned out....

We sang and danced to the Koo Koo Kangaroo birthday song (that is permanently stuck in my head all day)
"Hooray, Hooray! It's Mattis' Birthday!"

We did church...

Mattis and his stuffed dog Jake (that Dannika made at Build-A-Bear) for him as a gift.
One month old...
and Today!

We have a family tradition to let our kids pick wherever they want to eat for their birthday!
Mattis wanted Chick Fil A...
But his birthday is on a Sunday this year...
Talk about one disappointed 5 year old.
He settled for Mad Taco instead (which was a better choice for me!)

Then he request a trip to Walgreens (lol) to get a toy.
He chose this gigantic ball called the "Wubble Bubble".
It comes in this little package, and you blow it up to make it big.
He's a simple kid.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATTIS! You're the coolest kid I know!