Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols

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What Fills Your Cup?

Thursday night was my church’s annual women’s conference. It was called Fill My Cup. I was completely humbled by being asked to share my testimony at this event. We have not been members of our church very long. So, I was totally surprised that anyone would want to hear how God had changed my life.

As I was praying and preparing to share my redemption story, the word “faithful” consumed my thoughts. He’s been so incredibly faithful throughout my dark times as well as the good times.

At the end of the conference, our pastor’s wife asked us what fills our cup, and she gave the analogy of a person carrying a cup filled to rim everywhere they went in a day, and how it would be inevitable for the contents of the cup to spill over. I’ve thought a lot about that question over the past three days. I’ve thought about all the things that we fill our cup with. Maybe it’s complaints and negativity, maybe it’s selfishness and self-centered thoughts and acts, maybe it’s gossip and slander, maybe it’s all the activities we have our kids involved in, maybe it’s our to-do list, maybe it’s our work, etc…. If our cup is full of these things, they spill out into our homes, workplaces, churches, and affect the lives of the ones we associate ourselves with.

In comparison, I began to think again about how faithful God has been to me, and when our focus is on Him and His goodness, you can’t help but fill your cup with things like: peace, love, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, and goodness. If our cup is full of those things, what a vast difference we could make by spilling out those attributes and thoughts in our homes, workplaces, schools, churches, etc….

I’ve written and deleted this post twice now, because I’m as guilty as anyone of filling my cup with futile things. I was challenged Thursday night to make it a priority to fill my cup with more of Jesus and the things that build up rather than tear down. So, I ask you, my readers, what fills your cup?


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A Few of my Favorite Things

Before I began eating healthy and exercising, I thought that expensive workout gear was frivolous and silly. I mean, they sell the same thing at TJ MAXX for one-third the price. WRONG!!!!! I am here to tell you there is a vast difference between a $15 yoga mat and an $80 yoga mat. Just like with a pair of $10 yoga pants, if you truly do yoga in them, they’re going to roll down and move the entire class, whereas a pair of Lululemon yoga pants will stay put the entire class and still feel and look brand new after every wash. So, my list of favorites may be a bit pricey, but they are each an investment and absolutely worth it if you use them everyday.

First up is my new yoga mat. I had a Lululemon Reversible Mat for six months, and I loved it. Super grippy, it was great! Well, when you do yoga everyday, the mat wears out. For the last month, I would slide on it, and if I came from a runner’s lunge to a crescent lunge or warrior pose, it would buckle. It was just worn out. So, when I reached my 100 pounds of weight loss, my sweet mommy bought me a Lifeforme Yoga Mat. It’s AMAZING!!! It has guidelines marked on it to help you with form and your center. It’s super duper grippy, and it comes with the cutest little bag to tote it. Y’all, this mat is on another level! It’s just wonderful, and if you’re a local reader, both MH Yoga and Balance 30A sell these mats.Second on my list of favorites is my Reebok Sports Bra. Now, if you’re a female and have any decent amount of breast tissue, you know this is an important staple! There’s no bouncing or flopping or falling out of this bad boy! It’s holds the sisters high and tight! Absolutely worth every penny!Ranking third on the list are my favorite yoga pants. I actually have a tie in this category. Both the Athleta 7/8 Tight and the Lululemon Wunder Under 7/8 Tight are FABULOUS! Neither roll down in the first forward fold of the day or look junky after a wash or two. They’re quality, an investment! Just for extra points, if you happen to have any extra skin of any kind (like me), both of these pants do an excellent job of pulling that mess up and out of the way. You won’t be disappointed with these pants. Excellent buy!Lastly on my list of favorite gear are my Brooks Running Shoes. About 6 years ago, after I had Weston, my feet were killing me! I broke down and went to our local running store, Love To Run, and had my feet analyzed. Brooks was the recommended brand. So, I purchased my first pair 6 years ago, and I purchase one new pair every year. They are definitely worth the investment. I’ve never had foot pain or shin splints since I invested in Brooks. I can wear them all day and feel like I have no shoes on. They’re great! You can usually find some great deals on a pair of Brooks on Amazon. That’s where I purchased my last pair, and they were only $60. A total STEAL!Now let’s talk about favorite snacks. Like good gear, good snacks are also an investment. They’re more expensive than Cheez-it’s, but they’re all natural and knock your socks off DELICIOUS! Parm Crisps have totally taken my salad game from a 4 to a strong 9! I use these rather than croutons, because Carbs are the devil, and the texture and crunch make the entire salad better. They’re pretty great by the handful when you just need a little nibble of something! They could also be substituted for a cracker, if you eat crackers. Locally, they are sold at Publix and Sams Club. Sooooo good!My next snack is this bag of individually wrapped, pre-portioned trail mix. Sometimes when I’m not hungry enough for an entire meal, I will just eat a pack of these, and I’m good. The walnuts take it up a level! Man, these are good, and my kids LOVE them! I found these in the produce section at Walmart.Lastly on my list of favorites, is my favorite mantra. This was on, what I like to call, The Board of Happiness at my favorite place, Balance 30A. I had an appointment with Dr. Bart Precourt on Monday morning, and this mantra has stuck with me all week. Hope for tomorrow is implied. It’s just beautiful!💕

I hope you enjoyed my list of current favorites. Let me know some of your favorites, especially exercise tops and yoga tops. I’ve been wearing old T-shirt’s, and let me just say, you don’t know how heavy a cotton T-shirt that’s 2 sizes too big is until you’ve done a one hour spin class, 45 minutes of hot yoga, or gone for a run in south Alabama in the August heat and humidity. I’m open to suggestions. I’m going to invest in some different brands over the next month, and I will see which top comes out a winner. Thank you for reading and have an amazing day!

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Own Your Stuff

This week I’m going to veer off my usual weight-loss and healthy living path to share what is heavy on my heart. A month ago, I received my summons for jury duty. I’ve never served jury duty before. I was not excited about it, but on Monday, the clerk reminded us what a privilege it is to live in a country where we have the opportunity to serve. My heart softened, and I saw the gift. I also saw how tirelessly and hard our city/state employees as well as local attorneys and judges work.

The week was FULL of cases, and apparently only 199 of the 525 people summoned showed up for jury duty. So, needless to say, there was no leaving early or being dismissed for whatever your reasoning was. Day in and day out, we were divided up and sent to different court rooms. As we entered and awaited to find out if we had been chosen for a jury, there were individuals that were appearing before various judges to receive their destiny. This really caught my attention. I listened and paid attention to the charges brought against them, the way they were dressed, what their attorney would tell them, and finally their reaction to the judge’s ruling.

Out of every one of these cases only ONE single person took responsibility for their action. ONE!!!!!! All the others found someone else or some situation to blame for their own actions. This baffled me!!!!!! We hear all the time, “the system is broken.” Well, I’m here to tell you that is a load of bologna! This world is broken!!!! It needs Jesus! He’s the ONLY one that can fix things.

Now, I absolutely realize that you cannot always help what you’re born into, where you grow up, etc….., BUT you can choose your attitude and actions. This is something that Adam and I ingrain in Banks and Weston. We tell them ALL THE TIME, “You are in control of two things in this world…your attitude and your actions.” I felt like I wanted to raise my hand and speak up to the lady that lost her children due to poor choices, “quit blaming everyone around you and your circumstances and MAKE A CHANGE!” Her biggest problem was HER! I wanted to tell the disrespectful man that was busted for drugs, “the only person that broke the law and did what was wrong was YOU!” Y’all, I just don’t understand why people that break the law and get in trouble refuse to say, “you know what, I did wrong. I knew what I was doing was against the law, yet I did it anyway. So, whatever punishment I receive, I deserve it.” There was only one that took responsibility, and my hypothesis is that out of the numerous ones I saw appear, he’s the ONLY one that learned his lesson. I hope I’m wrong on that, but all signs point to I’m right.

As you can probably tell, I don’t do compassion well. I have to pray daily about it. I suppose it’s because when my life has gotten hard, I had to put on my big girl panties and face it head-on. I wasn’t bailed out of tough times, and I don’t bail my children out and make excuses for them when they mess up. It’s never a teacher’s fault if my child fails a test. They CHOSE not to prepare for the test, therefore they suffer whatever consequences are deemed upon them. My parents weren’t perfect, and Adam and I aren’t perfect, but I will be danged if I’m going to raise two men that one day stand before a judge and make excuses for their actions. Honey, I would come up there and spank their tail!!!!

So, where my heart is heavy is at the point that as a Christian, there’s a bigger picture than an earthly judge. We will ALL face the ultimate Judge. There will be no time for excuses or disrespect. This world needs Jesus immensely, so that they are not left there saying, “but it wasn’t my fault.” After this realization, compassion for their eternity set in. It took every fiber within me not to stand up and tell them about Jesus. He’s their hope. Their ONLY hope! The question is, ” How did we get here?” I think the answer is simple, we’ve quit owning our stuff and holding our children accountable for their actions. My opinion may not be popular, and if it upsets you then, I’m sorry. That isn’t my intention.

I know this week’s post was heavy. It’s real life though. I promise to lighten things up next week. Thank you for reading, and I urge my Christian readers to pray for the lost, spend some time volunteering at the various organizations that house and minister to the broken. It always blesses our family when we volunteer. Be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


Reaching Goals and Taking Names

Almost thirteen months, Fifty-six weeks, three hundred ninety-three days….that’s how long it took for me to reach a HUGE goal! I have officially lost 100 pounds!!!!! I literally cannot believe it! I mean, it’s basically equivalent to what Banks weighed in seventh grade!!!!! Mostly, I’m so proud of myself!!!!! I have worked extremely hard over the last year, and there have certainly been times I felt like giving up, but I didn’t. I wanted to reach my goals more than I wanted to give up. I feel like these last fifty, maybe sixty pounds that I have left to lose are totally doable. I’m not overwhelmed by that number anymore, because I’ve finally reached this landmark milestone on this journey.The top picture was taken July 4, 2017, three weeks before I took action and decided to make a change. The bottom picture was taken this afternoon. I don’t even recognize or know the woman in the top picture anymore. There’s not one part of me that is the same. This journey has changed me completely. Obviously there are physical changes, but my outlook and attitude toward situations has changed, my spiritual life has definitely changed, and it’s all because my focus has changed. The question I get asked the most is, “How have you stuck to this for so long?” Well, I think the answer is, “I don’t have a choice.” In my mind, the only choice I had last year was to change everything or die. That sounds extreme, but it’s the truth. I was miserable. I didn’t have money for weight loss surgery nor did I want to take that route. I’m not afraid of hard work, and I was never deceived into thinking it was going to be easy. I knew the incredibly high mountain I had before me, but I knew the rewards of feeling better, looking better, having more energy, and the influence I would have on health choices my children would eventually make far outweighed the difficulty this journey would entail.

The other question I get asked by people that don’t follow my blog is, “How have you done it?” I simply say, “The old fashioned way of change of diet and exercise.” To expound upon that…I eat a completely organic Ketogenic diet. Now, if you look up Keto recipes on Pinterest, you’re going to find crap food that is horrible for your cardiovascular health. Organic, whole food Keto is TOTALLY different. I eat a lot, like A LOT of veggies. I aim for 30 grams of fiber/day. I make it Keto by the addition of grass-fed butter or organic olive oil when I cook the veggies, or when I eat raw veggies, I either dip them in an organic avocado dressing or I blend them into a whole food protein shake. I basically follow the rule of, “If it grows in God’s garden, walks in God’s garden, or swims in God’s sea….eat it!” It’s all about eating real food rather than crap made in a lab by chemicals. It’s simple really! I also exercise…everyday. A year ago, ten minutes of exercise was all my body could handle a few days/week. Now, I either run, do yoga, or take a spin class everyday. Those all take anywhere from 45 minutes to a hour. It’s amazing how much stronger my body has gotten! The photos above on the left were taken in March when I began yoga, and the photos on the right were taken a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing to see the difference in the definition of my abdominal muscles, and on the side view, you can really see the ripples of extra skin on my side from where my tummy has deflated. My butt is smaller too! Hahahaha! So, if you were wondering if I followed through on my promise to buy diamonds when I lost 100 pounds, you better know I took myself to see my friend Nancy Kopko at Herring’s Jewelers!!!!! I bought myself diamond earrings. This morning I paired them with my ruby and diamond earrings Adam bought me a few years ago. I like the fact that they’re simple and not overstated. They were within budget 🤪 and every time I wear them, I’m reminded of this accomplishment. When you lose 100 pounds, you deserve diamonds and more.

So, here’s to the next leg of this journey. My plan is to continue doing what I’ve been doing and try not to become discouraged as I know that these last 50, maybe 60 pounds aren’t going to come off as effortlessly or quickly as the first 50-60 did. I cannot wait to reach my final goal and at that point, I will reveal how much I weighed when I began this journey. You won’t believe it!!!!

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me and helped me along the way. I love you all. To all my readers and subscribers, thank you. To all those on this same path, We can do it! To anyone who wants to start but doesn’t quite know how, get in touch with me. I will help you and you’re worth it!💕


Back in the Groove

School is officially in session, which means a daily schedule and structure. This mom is in HEAVEN!!!!!! I LOVE when my kids are on a tight schedule. We all thrive when each minute of our day is neatly organized.Banks is a Junior in high school!!!!!! How did that even happen????? Weston is in Kindergarten!!!!! Again, how did that happen so quickly??? The first week has been jam-packed with fun, football, multiple quizzes and essays, rhyming words, and new sight words. Although busy, it has truly been a wonderful week.

As some of you may remember, I am now a stay at home mom. I kept my little bi-weekly job, but the majority of my time is now spent taking care of my manclan and my home. I’m LOVING it! Weston still only goes to school until noon, and let me tell you, those 4 hours fly by! I have enjoyed getting to switch up my exercise routine. Monday, I went to my mom’s 9:30 yoga class at MH Yoga. Tuesday, I ran a couple of miles at Westgate Running/Walking Trail. I’m afraid to go back in the woods alone. So, I just ran from one edge of the woods to the other and back to where I started. After a weekend full of yard work and pushing myself physically early in the week, by Wednesday, my body was begging for a gentle/restorative yoga practice. So, I just enjoyed some time at home and did Gentle Yoga With Adriene. Thursday morning, I had to go to my little part-time gig, but while Weston napped, I pushed myself again with Yoga For Weightloss- Focus on Abs and Arms. Today, I continued with more Yoga For Weightloss- Strengthen and Lengthen with Adriene. It’s felt great to have some time to take care of myself, because I always spend so much time taking care of everyone else. It’s also felt great to push myself harder and further than I have in YEARS. I also started another 10 day Detox. I completed the Standard Process 10 Day Detox last month, and Dr. Bart Precourt recommended that I give it another 10 days this month. So, here I am….day five and feeling fine! This Detox is so easy and yummy. I can already tell a difference in my abdominal bloating. I really love Standard Process products! A few weeks ago, I had a miserable experience trying on some clothes from a local store. I was down in the dumps and completely devastated due to some fit issues and some extra skin, but all was TOTALLY redeemed today when I hit the jackpot at TJ MAXX! We are entering fall, and I wanted some jeans with a button. For the past 3-5 years, I’ve worn leggings and jeggings, but I’ve put in the work so this year I wanted the real deal. I found Lucky Brand jeans for $39. Every pair was size 6 or below except for one lonely size 12/31. I thought….”it’s worth a try!” They went over my hips and booty and buttoned and zipped easily! I’m serious, zoom in on the pic, and look at the size! It’s celebratory for sure! I literally celebrated and jumped and yelled, “YES!” right there in the fitting room. Obviously, I bought those bad boys, and I just might wear them everywhere I go! I’m pumped! It just goes to show that if you put in the work, results will show. I haven’t seen the scales move in over a week, but I feel great, and I’m seeing physical results. This week I’ve felt the results. I’m sore….good sore! So, if you’re feeling discouraged, don’t give up! You too might be celebrating in a TJ MAXX fitting room this time next week!

Here’s to back to school, structure, schedule, pushing yourself, detoxing, and RESULTS!!!!!! Never ever quit!

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Happy Healthiversary

July 28, 2018, was my one year healthiversary! I made that word up, but I LOVE it! The past year hasn’t been easy, and as recently as two days ago, I had a complete meltdown, ready to quit, ugly cry, MELTDOWN. However hard the last 376 days have been, there have certainly been more hills than valleys.

I consider my first peak to be the day I started! After all, that is the hardest part!

My second peak was completing 100 days of detoxing on a cellular level. True Cellular Detox was a necessity, because without it, nothing would have worked. My body was so toxic from years of abuse and wackadoodle hormones that I was storing everything, whether or good or bad, as fat. At the end of those 100 days, I had reached my first goal of losing 50 pounds. I was ready for more, which brings me to my third peak…

I found yoga. I began weak and out of breath, but now, 5 months later, I’m strong and have added running and spin class to my weekly exercise regimen. I’ve currently completed 4-30 day Yoga With Adriene online courses, which are completely free on YouTube. I just started a 12 class series this week with Adriene called Yoga For Weight Loss. This series is NOT for beginners. The classes are 45-60 minutes, and they are HARD. I yell at her everyday to hush talking and know that I’ve already taken 5 breaths in each posture. I finish drenched in sweat, and I LOVE it! I’ve supplemented my workout routine at our local yoga studio, MH Yoga, where I have engaged in both spin and yoga classes taught by my AMAZING mother, Pam! They too are hard, but I leave feeling strong and energized for my day!

My fourth peak would have to be when I finally fit into a size 14. That meant no more shopping in the plus-size section. When I began this journey, I had one pair of pants with a button on them, and they were a size 24😱. I can now wear a 12 in some things, but these child-birthin’ hips don’t lie and still require a 14 in other things. More importantly than my size is how I feel.

So, my fifth peak is definitely how my mindset and emotional health has changed. I don’t have outbursts of anger, floods of emotions that I can’t control, and constant negativity anymore. Now, I’m not saying when things get tough, I don’t have a meltdown. I absolutely do, BUT I don’t stay in it. I also don’t take it out on the ones around me anymore. I have a “come to Jesus meeting” with myself and bounce back, ready to fight temptation, frustration, and hard times when they appear. I personally don’t believe you can have a health journey without addressing your mental and emotional health. Being healthy is so much more than the physical. It is imperative for you to change your mindset, thoughts, and perspective in order to reach optimal health. I find a lot of encouragement from the Bible, 1000 Gifts (I’ve read this book nearly 3 times in the past year. If you haven’t read it, you should!), and my family and friends. Your TRIBE is everything! If the people you surround yourself with don’t encourage you to be the best version of yourself, then you need to find new people. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually a game-changer!

My thankfulness, Eucharisteo, for all the highs and lows of the last year can never be expressed in words. I found a TRIBE, a FAMILY, at Balance 30a. They embraced me (literally) from the moment I walked through the door, and they honestly helped change my life. I love them! I love my family for their encouragement and compliments and tough love when needed. Who are we without family of some kind? Seriously? That’s a different post for a different day, but mine is the best, just so you know! Some people say, “you’re so focused and determined, how do you do it?” Well, the answer is simple…I NEVER want to go back to my old self. I have the same 24 hours in a day that all of you have. I have a husband, 2 kids, a dog, and up until 8 days ago a full time job and a bi-weekly job. You make time for what’s a priority. If you want to truly be healthy, you will make the time. I’m not a trainer nor do I have any certifications for fitness, but I know a lot of people that can help you and want to help you if you don’t know where to start. The most important thing is to start. Last year, I literally could only exercise for 10 minutes/day, that’s absolutely all my body could handle. Now, I am busting it for an hour 6 days/week. I went from drinking Coca Cola to drinking nothing but water and eating fast food to cooking like a Julia Child. Just START!

So, here I am one year and 11 days later, and here are my current stats:

Weight loss– 97.5 pounds (I’m going to the jewelry store when I hit 100 pounds…SERIOUSLY!)

Inches– 107 inches (I measure calves, quads, hips, waist, sub-costal area, chest, forearms, and biceps)

Percent Body Fat– down 5% (this measurement has only been done since November. So, it actually may be down a bit more)

Body Mass Index– down 10 points (this too was measured for the first time in November. So, it may be down a few more points too)

Clothes– from a 24 to a 12/14 in pants and dresses, from a XXL to a Medium in T-shirts, and from an 8.5 to 8 in shoes (who knew my feet would shrink)

While I still have quite a few more peaks to reach, I’m motivated and ready! I’m proud of my progress so far, and again, I’m so grateful for this experience and the people I’ve met along the way!

School starts next week. So, I will be back to posting weekly. Until then….thanks for reading and be encouraged! If I can do it, ANYONE can do it!

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Blink and They’re Grown

July 28, 2002, changed my life forever. I became a mom. I didn’t plan it. I wasn’t ready. The timing was bad. The circumstances were awful. Little did I know that God had HUGE plans for this little 7 pound 1ounce, 23 inch long baby boy.💙

I was just a child myself. I didn’t know how to raise a child. Within the first few days, I was presented with a multitude of options and decisions that had to be made. It was more than my 20 year old self could handle, but thankfully I had parents that loved me and showed me grace. I didn’t have any idea how much this little LIFE would change mine. Mathis Banks was the best baby. He was a nursing champ! He slept well, cried very little…strong and resilient from the beginning. When I lost all my friends, he was my buddy. Banks was my constant sidekick for 9 years.

I messed up….A LOT….but he loved me despite poor decisions, working all the time, no money for vacations, and no daddy. We did our best, and he kept me going. It was giving him life that saved mine. Without the birth of Banks, I don’t know that I ever would have come to know Jesus. Without Banks, I wouldn’t be the person and mother I am today. Without Banks, I would be incomplete.

Sacrifice is a major part of parenting. There were times I went hungry so he could eat. There were many years daycare and babysitters spent more time with him than I did due to school and work. There was a time we didn’t have a vehicle and walked where we needed to go. There were bills that were paid late. There were some really hard times. This kid ALWAYS smiled, laughed, excelled in school, and was there to hug me and love me. He’s incredible! Some kids cave and rebel when they’re made to feel less than by their peers because they don’t have the best of possessions or don’t live on the right side of town or don’t have a dad. Not Banks! He has used it all to drive him 1.) Closer to God and 2.) In full pursuit to fulfill his dreams and prove to all those that have made him feel like a “nothing” that he is indeed a “something”. Though the first 9 years were tough, we had blessings coming. We prayed and prayed for a husband and a daddy, and In 2011, God delivered. It went from just the two of us to a family! From the first time they met, Adam and Banks were best buddies! Banks would hang on him and wrestle, and I don’t know who loved it more, Adam or Banks. As a matter of a fact, Adam told Banks he loved him before he told me! A lot changed for Banks when he was given a daddy. Adam has taught him confidence, how to tie a tie, all the ins and outs of muscle cars and cars in general, talked to him about the birds and bees😬, and taught him to drive. Because of Adam’s love, Banks is adopted and chosen!

It was not long after Banks was given a daddy that he was also made a big brother. After being an only child for 10 years, I wondered how he would take this change, but in perfect Banks form, he instantly was the absolute best big brother in the world! Seriously, he helped change diapers, play, was always willing to take a picture with Weston, and is now Weston’s role model, babysitter, and best friend. The past two summers Banks has taken care of Weston everyday while I work (40-50 hrs/week). I come home to a clean house and well-cared for 5 year old. Banks is truly an amazing kid. Most teenagers are selfish and only care about what they want during the summer, but Banks never complains about having a summer job. Weston is one lucky kid to have a brother like Banks!Banks is not only a hard worker, but he is also athletic. Over the past 16 years, he’s played 10 years of city league baseball, junior high school baseball, junior varsity school baseball, junior varsity football, and varsity football. Sports is another parenting sacrifice. It’s time-consuming and takes a lot of patience, and sometimes self-control, but it’s worth every penny and every hour spent at a ballpark and stadium. Athletes are disciplined, driven, and sports teaches kids a lot about humility, teamwork, and confidence. There’s no where I would rather be on a Friday night or an entire Saturday than watching my Banks play ball.

I’m not finished bragging yet! He is also smart…like really smart. You wouldn’t know it now, but he was actually kicked out of our local magnet school after one semester of kindergarten because the teacher said he wouldn’t behave. Of course, he had perfect grades and had not missed a question all year. That same teacher also mandated that I have him tested for attention problems. The physician wrote on a prescription pad, “This child is bored. Give him something to do!” I wish I had that teacher’s phone number now. I would send her every picture I’ve taken over the last 16 years of every academic accomplishment he’s achieved. I would also send them to the principal of that magnet school so she could see the outcome of a child she had no faith in and gave up on. Banks still makes excellent grades, just passed his first AP exam, already qualifies for scholarships at every college we’ve visited, and does an amazing job of balancing both sports and school. He’s self-motivated. He wants to be an attorney, and we have been touring college campuses to find the best place for Banks to fulfill his dreams and succeed.

As you can see, the last 16 years have been filled with trials, hardships, diseases, rejections, crying, fun, blessings, adoptions, vacations, family, sports, achievements, success, laughter, and most importantly LOVE. On Saturday, July 28, the little baby that changed my life will be 16. He’s handsome, kind, respectful, smart, athletic, funny, and destined for greatness. I’ve prayed and cried over this child. I’m his biggest fan. Together we’ve beat poverty, loneliness, hatred, discrimination, epilepsy, and every other odd that was against us. Banks, I’m so proud that you are now a man that loves God first, your family, are a loyal friend, never too big or embarrassed to take a picture with your mom, and always put others first. I knew when you were born that God had amazing plans for you. I’ve never stopped and never will stop helping you achieve every goal you have. Your birthday changed my life forever, and I could never be more thankful and proud to be your mom. The years have passed quickly, and I can’t believe your going to be 16 and a junior in high school, going to prom, and applying to college next summer. You make me proud, and you make all the hard times worth it. I will always be your biggest fan! I love you and happy birthday, my Banks!