I thought that I would take a moment away from "Baby Hillger" and focus on us for a bit. I've always wanted to have a written record of what I like to call our story, so that one day when we're old and forgetful, we'll remember how we got to where we are today! This may be long, and I'm going to try to include relevant pictures, so here we go!
First off, I've already talked about God's plan, and how Darren was put on this earth specifically for me. I truly believe that. So, God knew all along where I would go to college and why.... I met Darren before my freshman year of A&M even started. I moved in to the dorms a week before classes began in August. My best friend from second grade was already living in College Station, so called to see if I wanted to hang out with her. Of course I did! I was all alone in my dorm room and didn't know anyone, duh... haha. So, she picked me up and we went over to where her boyfriend was at, which just so happened to be Darren's house. We walked in and went to Darren's bedroom where all of the guys were. They were watching remote controlled airplane videos, which I thought was a little dorky, but ok! I don't even remember if they introduced us at that point or not, but either way, we went and played tennis. The main thing I remember is thinking Darren was pretty dang cute! After that night we began talking here and there, mostly when I would hang out with Mo and Keith. Then one night we went to a concert together by Phil Pritchett at Hurricane Harry's. We went back to Melissa's townhouse and played drinking games. When it came time to go to sleep they stuck Darren and I together on the pull out couch. All innocent keep in mind! We ended up talking for a while, and each of us kept inching our hand closer to the other until Darren finally grabbed my hand. One thing led to another and we ended up kissing and snuggling the rest of the night. The next day I was so scared that he had just done all of that because we were drinking. I really liked him and was hoping that he liked me just as much! Turns out he did! He asked Melissa for my phone number and called me to ask me on a date! We went to lunch at Fitzwilly's, our favorite burger place on Northgate. We went on lunch dates several more times after that. September rolled around and we went together to Brownwood for a music festival and to spend time with Jenae's family. We held hands at the festival and that night he came into the girls room and gave me a kiss goodnight. It was our first legitimate kiss, haha. I remember the butterflies that I felt. It was the most amazing feeling in the entire world! After the Brownwood weekend Darren finally asked me out on a dinner date to Johnny Carino's. This night was amazing and I remember not wanting it to end. Our conversation never ended, and flowed so naturally. It was like we had been dating for years. Finally, after several dates and what not, Darren came over to my dorm and officially asked me to be his girlfriend on September 26th. I remember thinking when he asked me, "well, duh I'll be your girlfriend.. what did you expect?!", haha, but I didn't say that outloud!
Time in our early years of dating was awesome. We hardly ever fought, we always wanted to be around each other, and we just were so comfortable together. It was hard to resist the urge to say "I love you" too soon... well what we thought was too soon. We would be together and say "I love... being with you." or something similar. We kept up this charade for a few months before I finally gave in. Yes, I said "I love you" first! We were about to leave for Christmas break, and although we had only been dating for less than 3 months I had known in my heart for a long time that I loved him. So, I gathered up my courage and told him. Darren was silent for a few minutes, which made me totally nervous. He then said "I love you too", and then explained that he was just so happy and glad that I loved him too, and that's why he hadn't said anything yet. Talk about making a girl scared, haha. I was just so happy that he felt the same way I had. He later told me that he had wanted to tell me those three magical words for quite a while too, but was afraid of scaring me off - yeah right!
One of our first nights hanging out, and I already knew I was falling for him!
We experienced so many awesome things together. We went to Arizona together our first summer to visit my mom and meet my baby horse KD, went to Aggie football games, attended Aggie Awakening (an amazing experience that I wish all college kids could attend), joined San Antonio Hometown Club and participated in their many events, visited family in Garden City... I could go on and on. I always wanted to be around him, and was so sad when we had to spend summers apart or Christmas break. Dating was a lot of fun, but I was anxious for more!
Having fun in Purgatory, Colorado
We had been dating for about two years when Darren graduated and moved to Lubbock. That was a hard year! We hardly saw each other between my work/school schedule and his work schedule. He came to visit a few times, and I flew to Lubbock once and drove a few times. 7 hours was a long way to drive for just a weekend, especially when I would work most weekends to try to make as much money as I could! The weekend that Darren came down to College Station to propose to me marked three weeks since the last time we had seen each other. I thought we were going to celebrate finally getting to see each other, and a dating anniversary... however Darren had other plans!
Reenacting our engagement
January 26th, what was the best night of my life up until my wedding! Darren took me to eat at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Bryan called Madden's. We had amazing food and wine, and enjoyed each others company. After dinner Darren suggested that we go on a walk through downtown. For those of you who don't know, downtown Bryan is awesome. Very old and full of neat little shops and restaurants. It was one of my favorite places to go on a special occasion during college. I didn't really feel like going for a walk, but Darren insisted. Hmm... ;-) We began walking around and all of a sudden he stopped me in front of the Carnegie library. He then told me, "I just wanted to let you know how much I love you. So much that I want to spend the rest of my life with you." He then got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry him. I couldn't believe what was happening, I was so excited! I started crying and of course said yes! It was so special to just be the two of us, sharing an awesome moment together. Not long after Darren's brother Trey called and they were right around the corner! They came to Bryan to congratulate us and take pictures!
I still couldn't believe what happened!
After taking some pictures and calling my parents and closest friends we headed back to my townhouse. There waiting for us was a trail of roses leading to a "celebration table" with more roses, pictures of us and our favorite bottle of wine chilling. Almost all of our best friends were able to be there to help us celebrate! I was beyond happy. It was an amazing night!
One of my favorites - our "hunny hug"
It seemed like years before the wedding date finally arrived, but man when it got close time flew by... naturally. We were married in St. Lawrence Catholic Church - the same church that both Darren and I were baptized, confirmed and took our first Eucharist in. It was also the same church that Darren's parents were married in, and numerous family members. It was so special to me to be married there. The night before the wedding we said goodbye and I went to stay the night at Darren's grandmother's house with my bridesmaids. I cried when I left him. More so happy tears, knowing that the next time I saw him would be when I was walking down the aisle towards him on the arm of my father. (Man, I'm going to make myself cry right now!) Our wedding ceremony was at 3:30 in the afternoon. Father Francis gave us a great ceremony, and we made things special by including our friends and family as our musicians, readers, and Eucharistic ministers.
Our reception was held next door to the church in the Parish Hall. We decorated everything with fall colors of cranberry red, brown, ivory, and some oranges. I may be biased, but it was beautiful. I also decorated everything with an antique feel. We had antique oil lamps (working!) on the reserved tables, an antique secretary that belonged to Darren's great grandparents as our sign in table, and other details throughout the hall.
Leaving as husband and wife!
We had the traditional wedding march to start off our dancing, followed by our first dance as Mr. and Mrs.! We danced to "Existentialism on Prom Night" by Straylight Run, a song that we had found while dating and fell in love with. We wanted something different from what everyone else in the world does, and I think we found it! Our friends Diwen and Patrick played the piano and violin along to the recording which made it even more special. That dance was one of the best in my whole life! My dad then gave a great speech to us both. I danced to "Father and Daughter" by Paul Simon with my daddy, and Darren danced to "Never Alone" by Lady Antebellum with him mom. We then kicked off the dance with some country music! My grandparents won the "longest marriage" dance, and gave us some great words of wisdom. We danced and partied the night away! When it came time to leave we were showered with fall leaves, and we left in Darren's grandfather's 1929 Model A. It was probably the best get away car ever! Again, I might be biased!
Leaving as husband and wife!
Our awesome getaway car!
Before leaving for the evening Darren sang and played me an awesome song, in front of all of our guests no less! He did his own rendition of "Who I am" by Wade Bowen. I'm pretty sure there was not a dry eye in the house. People still come up to me and tell me how that was one of the sweetest and coolest things they had ever seen done at a wedding reception. That's right, my husband is awesome!
After leaving our wedding we traveled to Midland to spend the night before leaving for our Honeymoon. When we arrived at the Hilton we were so excited because we were upgraded to the Governors Suite.. for free! Too bad we weren't there long to enjoy it! We had an early morning wake up call to get to the airport for our flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Unfortunately this is where things turn.... we missed our flight! Turns out that the night we were married was the night Daylight Savings Ended.... so our hotel clock was incorrect and we arrived at the airport an hour past when we were supposed to. Oops! We just had to catch the next flight out, and ended up not getting to Puerto Vallarta until late in the evening instead of early afternoon. It didn't phase us too much though.. we were married and that was all that mattered!
Shortly after arriving in PV
Our Honeymoon was so much better than we could have ever dreamed of. We stayed at the Villa Premiere in Puerto Vallarta, a small adult only hotel. Of course we had the Honeymoon Suite, complete with a jacuzzi tub on the balcony! The food was amazing, the scenery gorgeous (we saw humpback whales just while laying on the beach that were migrating south for the winter!). We specifically wanted to go somewhere and do absolutely nothing but enjoy each others company. Our Honeymoon package did include a couples massage and a candlelight private dinner on the beach which was AMAZING.
Taking a nice photo-op at sunset on our balcony
Everyone who worked at the hotel was so nice and helpful. Our maid came in every night to do a turn down service for us where she would fill the jacuzzi, light candles, spread out rose petals.. you name it. It was awesome! We didn't even want to leave the hotel because it was so nice, but one day we did venture in to downtown PV for some shopping.
Dinner at one of the three hotel restaurants
We were sad to leave Mexico, but ready to get back to Texas and start our lives together in Lubbock. While living in Lubbock Darren continued to work at the Eco-Drip in Levelland, and I started back up at Texas Tech. Darren was the best, and fully supported me through college. He paid for tuition and never once suggested I get a job, instead letting me focus on my studies. It was with this great help that I was able to graduate Summa Cum Laude. I was also able to participate in the Texas Tech Equestrian Team because he wanted me to ride and have fun.
During our early married years we experienced many great things together. We enjoyed our first Christmas and Thanksgiving as a married couple shortly after getting married, we traveled to Jamaica for Darren's cousin's wedding, went to countless Garden City football games, and just enjoyed growing closer together as a couple.
After the beautiful beach wedding in Jamaica
After graduation we moved to the little town of Garden City, Darren's hometown, so that I could begin work at Eco-Drip and so that we could settle and move towards our future! We were so happy to leave Lubbock, but still miss all of our friends and family there.
Proud citizens of Garden City, Tx!
We settled in to an old 1940's house that belonged to one of the best school teachers Garden City ever had. She taught Darren's parents and even his grandpa! We then decided to expand our family by getting a puppy! Pearl has been so much fun and we love her incredibly way too much! She's a little spoiled, but such a good girl, and super sweet.
Our little family
Now we anxiously await the day when we can expand our family further. Hopefully God decides soon that it's time for us to be parents! Our love for each other continues to grow every day... I am amazed that it is even possible to love him more and more, but it definitely happens! We are truly blessed, and I know we are each others best friends and soul mates.