See You Soon

By Natalie

Today was my last day as a nanny to my precious charges. But this is not the end.

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After nearly three years I felt like it was time for them to have a fresh face. Though it’s the most difficult thing to walk away I ultimately want the best for them and right now that isn’t me. The boys deserve a refreshed presence with a whole new batch of enthusiasm. I want it to be me. I’ve prayed for it to be me. But sometimes things are necessary for a season and I’d say I had a pretty good run.

No more prepping Caleb’s cookies and strawberries before he gets off the bus. No more Grant patting his pillow and begging, “Natalie lay here.” When I put him down for his nap.

No more getting Caleb into his swimsuit just the way he likes to wear it. Which is backwards.

No more getting Ryder off the bus and watching him run to his plate of pickles and hummus with crackers.

No more Ryder opening my car door for me.

No more Grant saying “Natalie, come here! Look!” At whatever latest creation he is proud of.

I can’t believe there’s no more. I didn’t teach them enough, kiss them enough, hold them enough. I certainly didn’t squeeze them enough. I didn’t tell Jacob and Mandy enough how much I appreciated them. They were always understanding. Always supportive. Never once did they make me feel uncomfortable, or unappreciated.

Believe it or not I’m going to miss sorting all those socks, peeling all those mandarins and wiping all those tears.

Though I won’t be there daily I know the door is always open for me to visit, spoil and love on them, which makes my transition much easier. This is no goodbye Coggins family, I will definitely see you soon because I already miss you.

I’m a nurturer to the core so it’s no surprise I’ll be embarking on a new adventure very soon. Two boys will be in tow this time. Because I know nothing but superheroes, diggers and jumping off of the most daring ledge. I have to thank my Coggins boys for teaching me everything I’ll need to know not just in caring for children but for my own life. They taught me to laugh at myself through every fall I had. How to be silly through every slide I was too big for. How to love someone so unconditionally through every tantrum they threw. Patience through every struggle they had communicating with me. They taught me that people can be cruel but they can be resilient, and if they can be resilient through judgement I can be too. They taught me to be myself and love myself just by being so individually themselves.

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I love you boys so very much. Caleb remember to be a good helper. Read lots of books! You’re such an encouraging big brother. Be good this summer and maybe Daddy will bring you Chick-fil-a! I want you to have an amazing summer you water baby you.

Ryder remember to ask for squeezes when you need them. Never stop giving compliments. Even if you only say “I like your shirt.” It always went a long way for me. Go easy on the cheese sticks and finish all of your apple before you throw it away.

IMG_0471Grant big boy Grant. Stay sweet and kind. You’re a great helper too, you can always choose to set a good example even if you are the youngest. Grantsy one last thing. Don’t forget to pee in the POTTY!

Thank you for all the adventures boys and all the love. I wish I could have given you so much more.


Life Lately

By Natalie

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My sister called me a city hipster recently. I have no idea what she means.


Our schedule has been all over the place this new year. While I’m ready to slow down and take a break I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed our busy schedule.

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We kicked things off in January with a week long hotel stay courtesy of our apartment complex. They had been undergoing some renovations for the past few months and needed to do some work in our apartment. We were grateful to get away from the noise and have our own mini staycation.

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Geese

Grant is learning the difference between a duck and a goose.

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Bing tent

We thought we’d take advantage of the warmer weather and plan a camping trip the first weekend in March. Of course we ended up enduring 30 degree nights, but the days were warm and we had the perfect amount of quality friend time.
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Pam camping

Pam makes a stinkin good S’more.

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We spent our second weekend in March taking the Coggins up on my Christmas present. A weekend spent at family’s condo in Atlantic beach. We’ve really been missing out on off season beach trips and have totally decided to do it more often.

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Brandon Beach

It was just about exactly what we needed.

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I finally tried Hex coffee. Definitely in the top five.

Your coffee won’t last around here if it can’t stand on it’s own. There’s just too many places that have it figured out.

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I took a break from social media and have a whole new outlook on it. I know, myself and everyone else right? I simply realized that I wasn’t living as much in the small moments that I could be. Through taking a break I was able to appreciate the small things for what they were and not for what others thought of them. Before I took a sip of my mocha at Hex I started an Instagram story.

“How do you like it?” Brandon asked.

“I haven’t taken a sip yet. I’m doing an Instagram story.” I told him.

“No one really cares about your cup of coffee babe.”

You see after nearly six years of marriage the truth sometimes comes flying out without any sort of sugar coating.

While I wanted to take complete offense I quickly noticed he had a point. It’s not so much that nobody cares. It’s more so that I was diverting my attention away from Brandon. He was excited for me to try Hex. He took time out of his day to take me out, why would I spoil that to sit and sift through a dozen photo filters? Nodding my head as he tells me what’s new in his world, while my full attention is zeroed in on that little device. Is it because it feels normal? Because I seek gratification in the opinions of others? I started to really question my reasoning for sharing.

This is a deeper issue and a touchy subject for most. But it is something that’s been on my mind and my heart. We do live far from family and to a certain extent social media has become a way to keep up with them. Lately I haven’t had the energy, or the words to compile a single blog post but I do wish to share a tid bit on Instagram. I think reasoning for sharing is different for everybody. For many social media can be a healthy and useful place. For a while there it evolved into a toxic place for me to compare myself to my peers and seek their approval for my own life. That caused me to seriously shift my perspective. It’s still a place for memories to be captured and shared with those I love. But now I’m more mindful of where I am and who surrounds me in that blurry space beyond my phone.


I made this beauty one weekend recently. I was in love with similar wall hangings I’d seen on etsy and knew I could come up with something from my yarn stash.

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Our allergies hit us like a ton of bricks again. When I finally had the stamina to make it to Trader Joe’s for our weekly groceries my cashier made small talk with me. He asked if I had plans for the weekend. I told him I was getting sick so I’d be resting all weekend. He asked if we’d lived here long, that allergies can be rough for newcomers. Yada yada. I said yes, could be allergies. Then he grabbed the pink tulips I picked out and said “You know, I’m going to give you your flowers for free so you feel better. You get lots of rest this weekend.”

How sweet is that? I told him that wasn’t necessary and he insisted. He made my day with his kind gesture. He also ensured my loyalty to Trader Joe’s for life.

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To the Boys

By Natalie

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To Caleb when you were eight,

“Matalie hike it to me, hike it.” You said as you passed me the football in the backyard. I’d throw the ball your way and you’d dive for it because I’m a terrible throw. “No hike it, hike it!” You yell, and throw the ball back.

“Oh hike it, ok. Ready?” I turn around and bend at the waist. “Set. Hike!” I toss the ball to you through my legs. You catch it and proceed to run laps around the yard chanting “Woooo!” cause that’s your thing. Eventually you get tired of my terrible throwing so you decide to throw the ball upwards and catch it that way instead. Then you run past me football tucked in one hand, and you stretch your other hand out for me to smack it as you run by.

You love chanting, cheering, singing, music and sports. You are the truest and most spirited boy I’ve ever known.


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To Ryder when you were five,

You bravely waded your way all around the shallow end of the pool last summer. Puffing your chest out showing me what a big kid you were. You can take a serious fall, and you hardly ever cry crocodile tears. Now that you’re in school all week our time together has been shortened. But the time we do have has been all the sweeter.

One morning when I picked you up for school you stomped and huffed because you either didn’t want to go to school, or you didn’t want to go to school with me, but with Daddy instead. Once I dropped you off at school before you got out of the car you leaned forward to kiss me on the cheek. Smitten, I watched you walk down the sidewalk. You turned and leaned down so you could meet my eyes through the windshield and you waved. “Bye Ry.” I mouthed to you super confused by your hot and cold demeanor.

But you were already galloping toward the school doors in a hurry. You’re always in a hurry to get places aren’t you?

You love food, tight hugs, learning, wrestling and affection.

You are the wildest and toughest boy I’ve ever known.


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To Grant when you were two,

You and I spend lots of time together during the school year, little bud. You may not remember it all but I certainly will. Every moment, every milestone, every kiss, every laugh.

Leaving my apartment once I asked you if you wanted to take the elevator or the stairs. You said stairs more likely because it was the last thing I said but we took them nonetheless. As we walked down the stairwell you shaped your mouth into an O and said “Who, who.”

“Hey little owl.” I replied. “You like hearing your echo in here? Is that why you wanted to take the stairs?”

“Jeah.” You responded.

You’re talking a ton and trying desperately to keep up with your rowdy brothers these days. When you don’t have it in you to wrestle any more you seem perfectly happy picking out a book with me and sitting in my lap while I read you a story.

You love playing, exploring, soccer, mud puddles, your big brothers and kisses, oh those two year old kisses may they never go away.

You are the most genuine amiable boy I’ve ever known.


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To Bailey when you were twelve,

I miss you quite a bit buddy, and your family misses you dearly.

You were a good dog. Such a good dog, picking up after the boy’s spills so I didn’t have to worry about them. Whether we stepped in dripping from the rain, or exhausted from the heat you were always there to welcome us home, happily wagging your tail.

Caleb mentioned you in the car to Grant just the other day. He whispered in the sweetest tone, “Grantsy you miss Bailey? It’s ok. Mommy and daddy had to take him to the hospital. He’s ok now. He’s a star.”

It’s lonely without you sweet boy there’s no denying that but we couldn’t ever forget you. May you rest and be at peace now.

Meal Planning

By Natalie

FullSizeRender (1)A new year seems as good a time as any to get things in order and start meal planning.

Usually when you decide it’s time to get organized in an area of your life it’s as a result of becoming frustrated or overwhelmed with your current circumstances. I became frustrated with the massive amounts of food going to waste in our fridge when we first got married. I never had a list for the grocery store and would find myself aimlessly walking around the aisles picking up whatever looked good. That got expensive, time consuming and unhealthy very fast. Who wants that?

It took quite a few wilted veggies and moldy loaves of bread for me to finally decide I needed more of a plan. Less fussing over what on earth I was going to make for dinner each night. Less spaghetti every week, because I didn’t know what else to make. I started small making lists, trying new recipes, planning for every meal we’d be having. Now I can’t imagine shopping without the prep.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Tips:

  1. Find a good source for recipes. (Blogs, Instagram, Cookbooks, Pinterest →You can follow my Meal Planning board here. I make 85% of everything I pin to this board.)
  2. Use an app, or set aside a small notebook to write down your menu for each day. Keep it in the kitchen to help keep you on track.
  3. Plan to go out every now and then to treat yourself! It’ll feel like a freebie in your menu and you won’t have to worry about food going bad that you decided not to make that night.
  4. Make sure to line up your menu with your schedule. If you’re working until 7pm you’re not going to want to come home and prepare that roast that takes an hour to cook. Save it for a chilly Saturday.
  5. Plan meals that use the same ingredients. If your personal pizzas, and that chicken broccoli casserole dish both call for shredded mozzarella cheese, jot those down for the same week.
  6. Plan early! Don’t push off menu planning for an hour before your grocery trip. You’ll feel rushed, and as a result you may end up with a scribbled list that does not coincide with tips 4 and 5. I’ll admit this is a hard one for me!
  7. Set reminders on your phone for prep you need to do before dinnertime. Set one for defrosting your chicken in the morning, or washing and chopping veggies ahead of time. Doing these steps earlier will lessen the load when you’re coming home after a long day.
  8. Read your recipes ahead of time! Take 10 minutes to read through the recipe you’re making that day just to become familiar with it. There’s nothing worse than realizing you needed to marinate your meat overnight, or finding that you’re in fact out of an ingredient you thought you had when the soup is half done!
  9. Chat with your grocery cashier! I suppose this one depends on where you go, but typically the employees at Trader Joe’s are willing to tell you what else you can do with those sweet potatoes if you ever get tired of roasting them. They know what’s in stock, and can suggest different combinations you never thought of.
  10. Buy Fruits and Veggies in season! You’re probably not going to find the best and brightest strawberries in December. Nor will your best tasting zucchinis be in March, but rather around June – August. Keep a chart close by like the one I compiled below. Or buy what’s selling at the Farmer’s Market currently.

Blogs to follow:

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Happy Meal Planning!

Filled to the Brim

By Natalie

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Here’s the thing. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t answer prayers. Because I’m standing next to one.

I’ve been surrounded by answered prayer all year.

A year into moving here I prayed for God to bring true friends into our lives. People we could share our lives with, laugh with, eat with, celebrate with, support and love.

It seemed like a silly plea at the time, but worth asking for because God has come through before with so much more. I confided in an old friend when I was at my lowest through a written letter and as soon as I received her reply I felt completely wrapped in her love. She wrote, You are noticed. Heard. And seen. Although you are in such an uncomfortable season, I can assure you, you fit.

That’s all I needed to hear. I fit. I didn’t know where yet, but I fit. I signed up to serve in eKidz and Brandon and I joined a couple’s small group, where we found true friends we could go through life with.

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At the end of the summer a few of us drove westward to our neighboring mountain town Asheville.

We ate and walked all over town chatting, laughing, and building stronger friendships.

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This trip took place right in the middle of the gas shortage in our area. We drove out to Asheville with half a tank and didn’t think much of it. We figured we’d fill up the next morning on our way out. So far we hadn’t seen any gas stations in Charlotte out of commission, so we deemed it something the news most certainly was blowing out of proportion.

That was only until we rode out of Asheville with an empty tank. The first gas station we saw was out of gas. The next two we hit were out as well. By the fourth and fifth gas stations we really started to panic. We were driving further into nothing, with a screaming empty gas light.

The plan was to meet our friends for lunch at Sierra Nevada, just another 10 minutes out from where we were. Nine empty gas stations later we rolled into the parking lot. We walked in to sit at the table an hour late. Brandon hates dissapointing people and I hate being late. We were embarrassed and frustrated. I had chocolate cake for lunch which about sums up our experience.

But this story is all to speak highly of our friends. They were gracious and listened to our woes. I felt safe after such a nerve wracking drive.

After lunch Nate and Pam offered to drive us in one direction to find gas, while Russell and Jamie drove in a different direction to do the same. The first to find gas in this eerily post apocalyptic setting was to grab a tank and get it back to our car.

Jamie called, “I hear you’re looking for gas. We got it.”

We pulled up to the station they were at and saw Russell crouched down filling a tank for us. If that isn’t true friendship, then you tell me what is.

We made it back to our car and filled it with enough gas to get back to the station.

We made it home safely and it’s all thanks to our friends.

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At the end of 2015 we were given jars full of water at church. We were to come up with one word as a prayer for our next year. Once we had our word we poured our jars out, believing God would fulfill the desires of our hearts. I’m here to tell you that in my life He has. He always has.IMG_7858

City Living

By Natalie

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We moved recently to the Southend of Charlotte. We’re three blocks down and a couple over from the Panthers stadium, a five minute walk to Brandon’s work and a whole lot closer to everything we love. Two months ago we were in that pickle of deciding to stay where we were which was a great space, just not quite what we envisioned, or to move on. Brandon and I are move on until you get it just right kind of people.

We began our apartment hunting after the change of ownership at our old complex. In efforts to be sure we would get exactly what we wanted this time we toured nine different places. Including one gorgeous loft in the city with exposed brick walls. We had to say no to it, after we realized we would only have street parking, and the laundry was in the basement of the building three flights down. That kind of thing is only fun to watch in sitcoms, not so fun to do in reality. After careful deliberation and discussing with supportive friends we happily chose one of the first places we saw.

We packed up our precious belongings and trashed or donated the rest to uproot ourselves once more. Each time we move we’re refining our lives to be just where we want them. Getting down to our essentials, and creating a cozy nest full of only things we love. By no means are we true minimalists, we both enjoy too many hobbies for that and we’re still the slightest bit sentimental. However, we do well downsizing every now and then.

Our space isn’t just this little apartment, it’s spilled onto the sidewalks all over Southend. It’s on every street corner that I catch a glimpse of the skyline and am left feeling inspired. It’s in the downstairs lounge where we shared coffee this morning before Brandon had to head out to work. It’s in the coffee shop across the street and the park down the road.

Last week Brandon was sitting in nearly an hour of traffic to get home. Now he’s meeting Bingley and I on the sidewalk corner for lunch at a hot dog stand. The woman at the cart asked if Bingley ate people food. We said yes, and she cooked him up a broken hot dog she was unable to use. Lots of hungry laborers stretched their hands out to pet Bing and give him lots of love. To my left I saw a city I love, and to my right my very happy family. Friendly faces all around and my heart was full. This is my safe place. I never thought I would feel safe exposed out on the sidewalks. Not until I saw dozens of other dog walkers in the evenings. Men and women all dressed up with their earbuds in walking to work in the morning.

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I kissed Brandon on the street corner, and he walked back to work, while Bingley and I walked back home. It’s perfect here.

God’s been teaching me alot about contentment. When we were dating I used to tell Brandon my plans for the future. It all sounded canned, and naïve. When he questioned me about it, I’d say, “because that’s what everybody does.” It makes me cringe thinking about it.

Brandon would say “Who’s everybody?” and I had no answer for him. That’s when I really got to thinking about it. Is there one right formula in which you should live your adulthood? Absolutely not. Some people prefer the space of the countryside. Some people prefer the bustle of a city. Some moms wish and are able to stay home, some wish or need to work. I see a never ending ladder people our age are scrambling to climb, desperate to reach certain points when our peers do, and frantic if we don’t. Something inside me really wants to kick down that ladder. It’s why it seemed like a step backwards that we bought a 3 bedroom house, and now live in a one bedroom apartment. In reality for us it’s 2 steps back in space, and 10 steps forward in quality of life.

You know that old verse your Sunday school teacher would tell you when you had a test coming up, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:13. Have you read the context lately?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

In a recent married women’s study I learned the context of that verse. Be happy, and content where you are. Don’t wait until you have it all to start living. You see, we live in a world full of comparisons. That’s nothing new to you. And you know, I think I’m done with it. As I was writing in my journal recently I felt like God was saying “Let it go. The life I have designed for you will be so different, there is no use in your scrambling. It merely shows your lack of faith in me.” Woah right? Sometimes we need God to tell us like it is. Whether I have what they have or not, I’m good. Whether they approve of my lifestyle or not, I’m good. I finally started paying attention to what works best for us, living in the faith that God has a different set of ladders for each and every one of us.

Wonderful Life

By Natalie

IMG_6584What happened to that little Grant, nestled comfortably on my shoulder? We’d walk to the end of the driveway wrapped with one of his cozy blankets to shield us from the cold. He’d just begun his cooing, and his giggles. He’d just begun developing his pallete for baby purees, and rolling over toward his light up toys.

Then he started crawling toward me as I ate my lunch on the floor. He started asking for more of this, and some more of that, in his sweet baby signs.

He pushes both feet together to jump down every step he comes across, because walking down steps one by one is for the boring. I’ll go out of my way to let him step onto the curbs when we’re running errands, just so he can jump off.

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Now, I’m standing at the end of the driveway with him in my arms. He’s just woken up from his nap, and is happy to be held face to face with me. He tucks one arm in, and points to my mouth with the other. “Mou” He says. I respond with “Yes, Natalie’s mouth.”

He points to a car whizzing by, and I say, “Yup that’s a red car.” Most of my week consists of stating the complete obvious. Sure, sometimes I do crave a bit of adult conversation, but for the most part it’s actually opened my eyes to the simplest pleasures in life.

Grant points towards a bird, hopping about in front of us, and excitedly squeals. “Berr!!” So I stop to notice the sweet little creature, and of course respond to Grant with a Tweet Tweet. The bird flys away, and I tell Grant all about how the bird must be going home to his nest, up in a tall, tall tree.

Grant looks around, and I say, “Where’s Caleb?”

He throws his arm out, palm face up, and gives me a puzzled look.

“He should be here soon, he’s coming home on the bus.”

Grant points down the road in the direction the bus comes from, and the second he hears that bus engine whirring, his face lights up, knowing his brother is home.

I set him down, and he runs back up to the house next to Caleb. I sit on the recliner to write a note about what we did that day. In walks Grant pushing a kiddie slide up toward the couch. He climbs up to the top, and his knees get bending. He’s popping up and down, full of excitement. Prepping for his jump.

I know what he’s doing. He’s seen his brothers do the same exact thing. Caleb and Ryder have been perfecting their spins, and flips onto the couch for years. They’re natural little daredevils, and you better believe Grant is ready to run with the pack.

Caleb runs over and sits on the couch. “Come on Grantsy, you can do it. Come on!” Caleb waves his hands for Grant, encouraging him to make the leap.

I make myself as small as possible, careful not to disrupt such a sweet moment shared between two brothers.. Grant makes the leap, and he doesn’t quite make it.. I wait a couple seconds to see his reaction. Caleb whispers “It’s ok Grantsy, it’s ok.” And Grant is right back up, brushing himself off, and already to the top of the slide to try again. This time he makes it. Caleb cheered, and squeezed his brother tight, and Grant’s face was absolutely priceless from his triumph. I wish I had more words to describe that moment, but I don’t. I wish I had more words to describe the feeling of watching children grow, and feeling like stages last forever, until they’re over, and you wonder why you ever blinked. But there isn’t a way to describe those things. Because they’re just feelings. And those are the very best things in life, I think. The moments that cannot be described.. The ones that you capture and set aside to live in your memory for good.. The ones that you can look back on, and think to yourself…

“Thank you God, for this wonderful life.”

Hey There Raleigh

By Natalie

Raleigh just so happens to sit right in between where we live now, and our hometown. We’d never visited the capitol of our new state before so we decided to spend the day and stay overnight on our way up to Fredericksburg recently. The only troubling thing about doing that was how nice it was to split the drive in half. I say every trip up to Fredericksburg deserves a stop in Raleigh.

We had a stinking ton of fun meandering around this city. Charlotte is modern and rustic and beautiful and sketchy all at once. Raleigh was so different. It was smaller than we imagined which made it quaint and full of character.
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Right off the bat we tried some eastern Carolina barbecue at The Pit. You know it’s good when they can get away with a name like that.

Across the street we stopped in at Videri Chocolate Factory to sip on americanos and gobble up some decadent truffles.

When my sister asked what our plans were in Raleigh I told her, “Oh I don’t know, walk around and eat. We’re foodies if you haven’t been able to tell already.” That’s totally what we did. We stopped in some eclectic shops, and we ate. We don’t eat pricey truffles the size of nickels very often, but when in a chocolate factory, that’s what I always say.  
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In between lunch and dinner we stopped in the museum of natural sciences. We got there an hour before they closed and had no idea how huge the place was, so naturally we went back the next morning to ensure we saw it all. Also, to check out that boa constrictor again. It was wrapped so snuggly around the branch in its habitat that Brandon was convinced it was fake.

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Brandon and I never really were great classroom learners. We like learning on our own terms. We’re do your own research, extract what’s important to you and throw out the fluff, tinker around with your own projects until you get it right visual kind of learners.

I once had a chemistry teacher who went blue in the face trying to teach me moles after school. It wasn’t clicking. The lightbulbs in my head were not even flickering. She repeated the logistics on and on, and could not understand why I wasn’t grasping the concept. All I saw were numbers on a paper. Once she started playing Mythbusters in the classroom I started getting interested. Not because we were watching a show in school, but because I desperately needed visual, experimental aide.

Get us in a museum with all that knowledge at our fingertips, where we can move along at our own pace and we’ll be the last to leave.

But seriously, we had to pry ourselves away that evening before they closed, like a couple of science geeks.

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When we thought we had eaten our hearts out we noticed our hotel had a snack bar. It was much too tempting to pass up, so we grabbed some goodies, and sat out on the lounge balcony to chat. I love these heart to hearts on trips. Whether it’s a week, a weekend, or even overnight we always make it a point to wrap up our stay with a genuine heart to heart. Brandon will tell me where he’s at, and I tell him where I’m at, we talk about our explorations, and then we talk about our future.

Face to face time is such important work in a marriage. We enjoy ours most with coffee at the kitchen table or on the couch. But having them on a trip where our eyes are opened to new possibilities is always a pleasant setting.

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Charlotte Visits

By Natalie

The Lawrence’s made it down for my birthday!! How sweet is that? We did alot of exploring around town and had some tasty Carolina BBQ. What more could you ask for?

imageimageimageSeriously she is a brunette Pebbles Flinstone in the flesh.

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The Peters’ came out for a visit, so I could snuggle my little Maceo man. He loves to be entertained. He’ll coo, and smile, but he’ll make you work for it. That provides the best memories after all. He seeks connection, he’s not going to throw his affection out to just anybody willy nilly. This little boy is intentional.

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My sister as a mom. It still gets me. Though you could never tell, she’s twelve years older than I am. For years I was her baby and now she has her very own.

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Jenny B came for a visit, and we head over to the Needtobreathe, Matt Kearney, and John Mark McMillan concert. We nestled in the lawn, begging Brandon to go grab us some King of Pops.

Not too long ago we house sat Jenny’s home while she was on a missions trip for the summer. When she came home we were housemates for another few months before Brandon and I bought our house in Fredericksburg. Many nights Jenny and I  would sit on the couch together talking about our days. Some nights we’d decide we deserved ice cream, and we’d both give Brandon those pleading eyes. “Brandon!” We’d yell. “Whatcha up to? We’re in our jammies, could you pretty please be the best guy ever and get us some hot fudge sundaes?” That Brandon. You know he caved, and totally enabled us.

imageimageimageWe love our Jenny. She’s been there for us, before we were us. It’s always special to have that kind of old friend around. Jenny has poured an incredible amount of love into me. She’s prayed over me. Supported me in every stage since I was 16. She is essentially another big sister to look up to, and I love her for it.

Ready to schedule your next visit to see us yet??

Summer Break – A Debrief

By Natalie

imageCan I be transparent? It was a really hard summer this year. The boys had about three times my energy each. Even with the triple espressos I’d sometimes put in my coffee each morning. One shot of espresso for each boy. That’s how to do it.

I started out with grand plans of fun filled summer activities and games which were quickly thrown out the window in week 3. These boys wanted to tumble, wrestle, swim, climb, hop, yell, slide, and play their way through summer, not color and make construction paper olympic torches. It was a sacrifice for me. I’m good with it.

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Sometimes they got along adorably together, and other times the sibling rivalry was unreal.

Sometimes we’d have really sweet moments, and the next they were destructive, loud, rule breaking little wild things.

The amount of boundaries that were tested this summer was no joke. We all had to have alot of patience with each other and take alot of deep breaths.

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Once every other week this summer we’d meet up with Brandon and take the munchkins to Chick-fil-a together for lunch. We’d park at Brandon’s work and wait for him to come out. Caleb would shout from the back seat, “I see him, I see him, it’s Bandon! Yay!” And I could take a solid sigh of relief for an hour.

Brandon had a great reserve of energy to wrangle up the boys when my energy levels were depleting.


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We went to the pool a ton which was just fine because they’re total water babies.

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Nannying can only be as great as the parents that you nanny for. They’ll make or break your experience.

Two years ago I sat on the Coggins couch. Caleb was kicking a soccer ball around the house. Ryder was hiding behind the coffee table, and Grant was a tiny little 3 month old laying in Mandy’s arms. They asked me questions about my experience. They were in search of a nanny, and I was in search of a job. First impression, I had a good feeling about them. I thought they were such a cool family and I totally desired to be a part. I had one more interview with another family and told them I would get back to them. They respected that, but as I left Jacob still threw out there, “I’m pretty certain you’ll want to choose us.”

Look at that. He was right.

I met up with Brandon on his lunch break the next day. We parked on the street in front of a sandwich shop, and ran inside from the autumn rain. I told him how eager I was to work for the Coggins. I frantically checked my email, and lit up when I saw something from Mandy saying they’d love to have me as their nanny if I was able. That night I accepted and have been unable to tear myself away from the family that has so graciously let me in.

Jacob is most like the big brother I never had. From helping us move to poking fun at me when he came home one day to find me knitting at naptime.

When Mandy gets home she takes the time to meet my eyes, and ask how I am. All in the midst of the boys begging for that much needed mommy attention. That, and the snacks in her bag, definitely the snacks in her bag. She always catches me off guard, as I’m watching their interaction and usually in a daze, having only spoken to children all day.

I once burned my gums with a hot dinner and told her about it a couple days later when a painful sore began to develop and kept me from chewing on that side. She gave me a numbing gel and later asked how I felt. “This area is actually starting to feel tender,” I said, pointing under my jaw, “do you think that’s related?”
She looked to where I was pointing and said, “that’s your lymph node baby. It may be your body fighting an infection.”
She calls the boys baby. Surprisingly that was all the comfort I needed. One affectionate word that made me feel taken care of. Like a family member. Like one of my big sisters was standing there concerned for me.

One day Mandy even texted me that I seemed defeated the day before. She offered to have me drop the boys off during her lunch break, so I could get away for an hour. I went home and slept. The second I walked in and hit the couch my mind shut off. My ears rung with silence and my eyes quickly saw the backs of my eyelids.


imageConsistency with kids is ridiculously important.

If you care for kids all day and their parents are not consistent with the same rewards and consequences, your work is all for nothing. When consistency is lacking kids learn to make it through the day just until their parents come home and they can have their way. I’m so thankful that Jacob and Mandy are not that way. It benefits everyone involved when all parties are consistent.

While the boys may grow anxious toward the end of the day for Mommy and Daddy to come home it’s only because they legitimately miss them and are ready for their evening routine. The kiddos understand that I’m the one in charge and they’re good with it. They know that if Mommy and Daddy get a good report from me they’ll be praised. It makes our days smoother.
Caleb is totally aware of these end of the day reports. When he gets off the bus each day and gets inside he’ll point to Grant and say “Matalie, how was he today? Where’d you take him? Has he eaten a snack yet? Did he nap good?”
It’s pretty sweet what kids pick up on.

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The ends of my days this summer left me sweaty, bruised from flailing legs not patient enough for shoe tying. I had chlorine filled frizzy hair and I was exhausted beyond words. When people would hear that they’d ask me how, and why I still did it. Why I didn’t find a new job. But this isn’t just a job to me anymore. This is family. The only answer I’d have for them was that the boys had amazing parents and if I seemed to have my hands full, my heart was even fuller.

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