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.

Summer So Far

By Natalie

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Hey guys, summer’s here.

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Actually it’s been here for a couple weeks. I’m just beginning to get my bearings.

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Because, as the lady from camp mentioned “Girlie, you got your hands full.”

Cue Caleb spinning, and giggling down the hall, Ryder close behind squealing as his backpack strings bounce behind. Grant picks up pace, and I pick up mine, until I have to actually jog, because they’re all now in a full on sprint toward the door.

imageSchool is out, which means this kiddo ↓ gets all the pool time he can dream of. But you better believe that come nap time, after the wet clothes are hung to dry for the next day, and the lunch dishes are put away, Caleb and I curl up together to read a book.

I read a couple chapters out of this Magic Tree House book during spring break just to see if he’d like it. Then, when Mommy came home he’d jump up and down excitedly talking about our book’s characters, Jack and Annie.

My sisters read with me when I was little, and always encouraged me to get lost in books. As an avid reader, Caleb’s receptiveness made my heart full.

I read a chapter a day, and just last week we finished it!

Proud nanny moment. 
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Our first week was all adjustments, and rule testing, and swim suits, and snacks, and parks, and heat, and timeouts, and giggles. Rough days, and perfect days.

But now. I think we’ve finally jumped into the swing of things.

Ryder started  camp our second week of summer, which meant we were driving up to Davidson. Caleb, Grant and I killed a few hours each day, doing something different.

The last day we pulled up to camp Ryder said “Yay camp! See you later guys!”

Ryder loves some individualized attention. Camp meant he got just that, and by the end of the week he was all about it.

Monday, we packed our towels, and lunch, and laid out at Ramsey Creek Park’s new swimming beach.
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Tuesday, we went for a stroll on downtown Davidson’s streets in search of a coffee shop I’d bookmarked on Yelp. I stepped out back with my mocha in hand, and Caleb asked if they could play on the playground. That’s right. Perfectly placed behind this coffee shop was this mini playground. I sat down on the brick steps and watched them play. Kept them entertained long enough for me to finish my coffee, and kill enough time until the mini golf place opened.
imageMini golf.. Boy that was an interesting adventure. We had sunscreen, shades, hats, and water… But man oh man that sun was beating down on us. Halfway through, the heat got the best of my charges.

“Caleb, remember what I said in the car?” I said as Caleb laid on the green in frustration.

“We’re just here to have fun. It’s ok if you don’t make it in the hole. And do you know what else? I’m proud of you for waiting patiently for others to play. But right now another family is waiting their turn, so you may not lay here, and block their way just because you are frustrated.”

He hops up, and I’m surprised as usual when my pep talk actually works. He plays a few more holes, and finally looks up at me and says “Ma-alie, I’m hot. I’m done.”

The sweat droplets chasing eachother down my temples told me that was just fine.

I grabbed Grant’s hand, and we veered off the course.

When we got to the top we returned our clubs, and said thank you.

But that red ball. Grant was not giving it up. He went boneless on me, refusing to be alright with the fact that I put away his ball. I picked him up so he could see it. The girl behind the window kept it open for us.

“Say buh-bye ball. We’re all done.”

G looked at me, then the ball. He waved at the ball, and we walked on.

Again… When they trust me enough to try what I’m offering them, it’s gold.
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Wednesday, and Thursday we spent the day at Jetton Park.

Playgrounds, trail walks that lead to gazebos, and a lakeside lunch.

Does it get any better?imageimageYou are never too cool for your nanny. Let that be known.imageCaleb grabbed my phone, and snapped these sweet moments.

Then he said, “Aw send that one to mommy, she will lub it.”imageimage

Relaxing? At first, yes. Then it was all spitting into the cracks. Because, boys.

Also, Grant. Forever learning the tricks of the trade from his brothers. ↓

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Lastly, this view from the volunteer parking lot on Sunday… Icing on the cake.image

Myrtle Beach & The Future

By Natalie

imageimageIsn’t it interesting how you make up these plans for your life, so certain that they’ll come to pass.. And years later you find yourself chuckling at those plans. Because you were a different person when you made them.

Brandon and I sat on the pier in Myrtle beach this past weekend after filling up on fresh seafood.

We took turns talking about our favorite memories together in our five years of marriage. Our wedding. Our honeymoon in the mountains. Our vacations. Our moves. Our growth. All of it.

We took some time to talk about our future too as we watched young kids splash around in the water. We had a plan for where we’d be at this mark, but it is so far off from what we ever imagined.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of personal journaling lately, leaving little to be shared here. But this is a safe place, so I’m just going to toss it out there.

I thought I’d be dying to get pregnant by this point. And part of me does feel that way, sure. I have a happy home, a dog who loves licking sticky fingers, and a supportive husband, why wouldn’t I feel the urge to expand our family?

But sometimes ya know.. I really don’t. If it happened tomorrow, I’d be happy. If it didn’t, I’d still be happy. Babies are scary right? God allots you the strength you need, and the patience to get through parenthood, which is incredible. But I’ll admit, after so many years it gets hard to imagine what it’ll actually be like.

I stayed with my sister last trip to Fredericksburg. My eyelids were growing heavy, and I was dying for sleep when I looked over, and saw Nem passed out beside me. I walked into the kitchen to clean up, and I saw my brother in law fast asleep on the couch. I squinted to see the time on the microwave, telling me it was close to midnight. I walked into the living room, and saw Maceo sleeping in his swing. This tiny little human rendering his whole family exausted. I got myself ready for bed, and was about to slip under the covers when my sister’s alarm on her phone went off. It was feeding time. AGAIN. My brother in law woke up as delirious as ever, and Nem came to, eyes tired. We spent another few hours awake, caring for Maceo, and watching Caribbean Life on HGTV.

People say you’re never ready, and I believe that’s certainly true. It sort of seems like you get convinced to do it, then once you tell everyone how hard it is, they give you this knowing nod.

But here’s the twist. I don’t doubt we are in a place where we’re ready. Nannying for one has taught me a lot. I realized very quickly that it’s better to get out of the house for all our sanity, even if the kiddos scream and cry. I know what it’s like to deal with temper tantrums in Target, cleaning up vomit, getting sneezed on, coughed on, and prepping food for hungry bellies while my own hunger pain is eating away at me.

My mom in law tells me it’s different with your own. That there is nothing like having your own children. I cling to that truth. I know that when we have our own it will be hard, and beautiful, and fun, and frustrating, and tiresome, but everything I ever imagined.

imageTo be honest, halfway through writing this I felt like deleting it. Because what if I feel differently tomorrow? Or next week? Or just a couple months from now? I’ve decided that’s ok. It’s ok to feel like today I want to travel more. See more mountains, more beaches, more of the world. Spend more quality time with my husband, and focus on becoming a better me.imageTomorrow I can throw that all out the window, and say let’s start a family. Because no matter when you have kids you will be making a sacrifice. There’s no shame in cutting off deadlines, and living in abandonment of the path God has you on. It doesn’t mean that I can’t plan, it just means that it’s ok for plans to change. It’s ok to uproot, and move towards whatever feels right for us at the moment. Life is surprisingly much smoother that way..

And Nana Poe says no! More grand babies! I do hate leaving you hanging like this. One day Mom, I promise. One day. image

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