It’s not a coincidence that I work in pediatrics. My mom has always been in the school or social system. One of my sisters is an elementary school teacher, and my other sister is a children’s pastor. There’s something in our blood that aids us in connecting with children. Who doesn’t want to listen to kids chattering on about nonsense? And build lego towers with them, or make everything out to be super exaggerated? Or maybe that’s just me. You never know what to expect from their little minds.
I loved passing out Goldfish to tiny preschoolers in Kid’s Church. I loved being a nanny, and watching princess movies with 3 little girls. I love discovering all the new versions of Connect Four with the kiddos at work. I love watching sweet girls that somehow know just what to do with baby dolls. They cradle them, and feed them as if they were their very own. It’s a mystery to me. And the boys, they are even more of a mystery to me. I am fascinated by their ability to build structures from a few simple blocks. I attempt to give my hot wheels cars a vroom sound, but it is nothing in comparison to the dozens of different sound effects little boys are able to concoct.
One day I was watching my two little nephews. We sat on the living room floor in the midst of wooden train tracks leading to nowhere. Toy cars, planes, and lego pieces scattered along the rug. I picked up a green lego and began doing what I typically revert to when it comes to legos. Build a house. Find that square flat green piece, and build yourself a house upon it. Do you think the thought to build a house even crossed my nephew’s mind? Maybe, but the thought to construct a plane was much greater at the moment.. While I was busy swiveling the front door to my lego house he was jumping all about, plane in hand creating sounds I can’t even begin to mimic. “That’s a nice plane.” I said. “Aunt Natalie it’s a biplane. Because It has this piece on top.” He pointed to the top wing I guess you could call it. “Well then, I stand corrected. A biplane.” I had no idea. The next time we drove by small Shannon Airport I excitedly pointed to the plane narrowing in on it’s runway. “That was a biplane.” I told B. “What? How do you know that?” he asked suspiciously. “Our 4 year old little nephew taught me that!” B nodded his head in assurance that little boys know their planes.
One morning I was taking a shower minding my own business when I heard grunts and groans a few feet away. Brandon was standing at the sink in the bathroom. There was a bit of clanging, and more groans. I kept my ears open for more insight. B began to faintly mumble under his breath “Well that was a bad idea” he said. Seconds later I heard a thud. I peeked my head out of the shower in confusion to see B lying there on the bathroom floor. His eyes had rolled to the back of his head, and all the color had left his body. I called his name in confusion as I scanned the room. Pliers, and a pocket knife sat on the counter. My eyes wandered downward to find a small trail of blood from the counter to him. What could he have possibly been doing? He came to within a couple seconds looking up at me. He claims he was about to say “What? I’m taking a nap.” then he realized he was on the bathroom floor, and that didn’t make sense. “Woah.” he laughed. “I just passed out!” I ran to grab him some water, and helped him to the bed.
Brandon had this menacing wart in his finger. He tried every kind of over the counter medicine, home remedy you could think of. Nothing worked, the wart kept growing, and becoming more of an annoyance every day. So he had the brilliant gutsy idea of cutting, and pulling it out. Who knew that seeing surging blood flow from his finger would cause him to feel faint. Unfortunately, only a small piece of the wart was actually removed in this amateur procedure.
I sat on the bed trembling as I watched him. It was such a scary moment to not have known what had happened to him. He was so pale now, he nearly looked green. My fingers felt cold and clammy. “I don’t feel good now. You’re making me feel nauseas.” I told him. I stood up and walked toward the bathroom. Within the next couple minutes I found myself opening my eyes slowly. I looked up into a spotty haze. Brandon was over me. “Are you ok?” he said. “Sure, I was dreaming.” I said. “You just passed out.” he laughed. I looked over. Yup, I too passed out on the bathroom floor. I suppose with so much shock, and seeing B so pale made me a bit queasy causing me to repeat the act. We wriggled ourselves back to the bedroom, ice waters in hand. We laughed, we hugged, and we thanked God for each other that day. We spent the rest of the morning in bed, tending to one another when needed. There’s something about your spouse not feeling well that makes you extremely grateful for them. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. The day we both passed out put that fact in perspective for me.
We continue to be hopeless when it comes to blood and fainting. I’m not quite sure how we will be able to handle one another when something more serious comes along. Last year B donated blood, and it was a mess. He started to feel faint, so they called me over to sit next to him. He lay there looking deathly ill. I held his cold hand, but had to turn away. He spoke slowly, lips turning purple. I apologized, and laughed. “You’re just so pale, it’s making me feel sick again.” I told him. I grabbed the orange juice he was sipping on, and the woman taking his blood rolled her eyes. “You too?” she said. I was so embarrassed. What a horrible wife I am taking my faint husband’s juice for myself. Brandon finished his pint of blood with pride that day, but I’m not sure he’d ever really wish to relive that experience again.
I have a pet peeve, and it’s a silly sort of thing. I am very intentional when saying “We bought our first house” rather than our first home. I know it’s silly but it’s the truth. It’s the first house we’ve bought together. It’s not our first home. Our first home was our apartment. That was the first space we shared together, and made our own.Growing up we moved several times. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. I owe my willingness for change to this. My need to redecorate and keep things fresh also derives from uprooting. It’s also the reason why I can randomly purge ridiculous amounts of items at any given time. Alright, purging mostly had to do with my cleanly aunt who can’t handle clutter. Every time we moved it was time to gather the troops. My aunt would come over and help my mom with packing. Somehow every time we settled down somewhere my mom seemed to be able to collect huge amounts of.. well stuff, just lots and lots of stuff. Thus making moves rather difficult. We would be sitting among massive amounts of my mom’s precious possessions, secretly tossing them when my mom turned her back. My aunt would look me in the eyes, trash bag in hand, and say “Natalie don’t collect junk, you learn to throw it away, or give it away.” I could see she was really trying to instill those words in me. For fear that I would end up the same. It was great advice, and I’m happy to say that I followed in my aunt’s footsteps. How many sentimental items are in your basement collecting dust? How is that even being enjoyed? Find something creative to do with your sentimental items, or toss them. Before you know it they will be closing in on you!
My point is, that I never felt like I had a home. We were either living with other people, or in a rental for a short amount of time. Nothing was ever permanent.
When I shared my first space with Brandon it was the first time that I actually felt like I was home. Purchasing our first house was a big step, and I am in love with it. But it was not our first home, it’s our current home. It wouldn’t matter where we lived or what house we owned. Wherever B is, is my home.
Many families choose have a gallery wall of family photos to display. I wanted to have something that incorporated our family in our home, but also fit well with our rustic theme. I came across this simple family tree on Pinterest. The best part about this project was that I didn’t have to purchase anything for it. Those are the best kind of DIYs. I have so many empty bottles and vases under my sink that I’m saving for some important purpose.Always good to save, you never know when they can come in handy.
Decorate your vase however you’d like. I added a small piece of lace around mine. Toss your twigs in the vase, breaking off any small pieces that don’t fit right. I added small pebbles at the bottom of the vase to help the twigs stay as upright as possible. Then decide whether you want to cut out pictures of your family or write their names on paper. I preferred the uniform look of names on paper. Yes, I am that OCD. The book pages at the bottom of the cardstock was a last minute decision and I love the way they turned out! Old books are also a great thing to keep laying around. There are so many crafts that can be given a vintage touch by adding book pages. If you don’t have any books you want to tear the pages out of find out when your library is having a sale. Usually you can fill up a box or bag for chump change. Hit up Goodwill or a yard sale in the spring. My sister is a 4th grade teacher, and she was organizing her classroom’s library when she came across a beat up version of the Wizard of Oz. She was about to toss it as I looked on eagerly. Well if you’re going to toss it then I’ll take it! I said. A nice classic book is always nice to have for craft projects like this because if anyone gets close enough to read the page there won’t be anything odd on the cut outI’m speaking from personal experience of course.. If you are using book pages, cut them to fit the cardstock, and glue them together. Then punch holes through and attach the yarn. I used little clothespins I had from when I made my front door frame decor. If you don’t have clothespins you can always glue or tie your string to your cardstock or photo. All you have left to do is tie the string to the top of your twigs and voilà! You have yourself a family tree.
If you asked me where I was when I read a certain book I could tell you. If you asked me how I felt at a climactic moment in a book, I could tell you. Books have this way of capturing a point in time, almost like any other sense that brings you back to a moment. A sound, a smell, a taste, a feeling, a story. I owe my love for reading to my sister Nadir. It started with her offering to help me read a book for school. The very next day she admit to me that she had finished the book because it was so captivating. Of course I had to see what she was talking about. I made myself comfortable in our big wingback chair and cracked the book open. For the very first time I fell in love with reading. When I say I fell in love I mean I fell in love with all of it. I love to cozy up with a book, not knowing what to expect next. I love turning each page, and getting excited for how close I am to the end. I love the first sentence, to the slow middles, to the satisfying endings. (more…)
In the fall of 2012 I discovered that my oldest sister Nem was diagnosed with Lupus. I hadn’t heard much about the auto immune disease but I knew it would be something very difficult for her to live with. All my life my sister has been this high energy, tightly scheduled, organized woman. She has always eaten healthy, and taken care of her body. How on earth could some illness come in and fight against her body the way that Lupus does? It’s called the invisible illness, with good reason. She appears to be just as normal as anyone else, but inside she feels pain, weakness, and fatigue. She may not feel able to smile much anymore, or laugh as often, which breaks my heart. But I know that she is trying.
I will admit that I have been a selfish sister. Questioning why she no longer has the energy for small outings, or spontaneous get togethers. She has always been someone I looked up to and love dearly. How is it that this person I care for so much can be in so much pain? Through all of my questioning, and frustration with her I began to realize that she is strong enough for this. If anyone were to cope with Lupus it is her. She is selfless in her sacrifices. She has enough strong will to fight. She has enough discipline to keep the healthy lifestyle her body needs. When God places obstacles in our way it’s so difficult to understand why. There is no doubt in my mind that my sister was chosen to fight this illness because she is strong enough. She has always been an inspiration to me, and that will never cease.
This past year I have struggled with finding a way to support Nem. What words would be pressing enough to give her comfort? There is not much that I can say to make her feel any better. She has had to sacrifice her diet, lifestyle, and put her future dreams on hold. . The best thing I can do, and anyone can do is teach people about this illness. Spreading the word is just the beginning. Last year our family stood around Nem in the busy streets of D.C. at the annual Walk to End Lupus. We raised money for the foundation to help find a cure. I’m happy to say that we had a blast last year, and we will be walking again this April.
My sister, I know you struggle in your classroom, grasping any bit of energy you can to teach a pack of 4th graders. I know you struggle as a wife, which carries so much weight and responsibility in a home. I know you struggle as a sister, and daughter feeling as if you have not given us enough. But let me tell you today, you are most possibly the strongest woman I know to date. You have never been more inspiring, or beautiful to me. I nub you!I love you in our sister language. Yes we have a language that only the three of us understand. We are extra special.
To learn more about Lupus visit this webpage.
When I was younger I had the worst migraines. They would come on so suddenly. I’d be sensitive to light, food, and scents which left me feeling nauseous. Though my younger dramatic self was convinced I needed to seek medical attention my mom was always able to patch me back together. She’d lay me down with a few saltine crackers, and turn on a funny movie for me. I’d lay there for hours until I felt better. All the while she would come check on me. She’d refill my ginger ale. Check my temperature. She’d make me feel cared for and safe. There was a time as a teenager that I slid down a gravel driveway, and scraped both of my knees. I was at a friend’s house and managed to laugh it off as blood poured down my legs. When I got home and saw my mother I crumpled in her arms. Full of emotion and pain I burst into tears. I couldn’t hide my pain from her. She sat me down, with a glass of water and bandaged my wounds.
The next day my mom took me to the doctor where they cleaned and bandaged me up. The nurse showed my mother how to wrap my knees properly, and she watched very intently. I squirmed a bit during the process but didn’t make a peep. The next day when it was time for her to clean and re-bandage my knees she made me as comfortable as possible. She propped a pillow and towel under my knees, and began the cleaning process. She did so in a very cautious manner, but goodness did I scream. She looked at me confused. “You didn’t make a sound when the nurse did it.” She said. “But you are my mom.” I thought. I can be vulnerable around you, and you will still love me. I screamed, and cried, and begged her to stop, but she knew best. When it was done, she patted me on the leg and said “Jah” like she always does when she wants me to calm down and realize something is over. The simple translation for it is essentially an abrupt “done!” I’d always feel embarrassed after I’d make such a scene. Yet I’m not sure if I ever thanked her for all she’d done for me when I grew up.
How a single mother was able to raise three sane girls is beyond me. We gave her some struggles I’m sure. Trying to keep up with the oldest, but also needing her support. Keeping the middle and the youngest from pulling hair, yelling, and clawing each other to death. She must have had the most difficult time with us. But she always kept us safe. She always made us feel beautiful. Ultimately, she tried her very best to give us everything she could.
I still marvel at the healing power mothers have. I will never understand it until I am one myself. I watch my sister-in-law Ashley with my two nephews, and how they adore her. Any little bump or scrape she can make better with a kiss, and a squeeze. To all of the young mothers out there I encourage you to fill your little ones with love, and positive words. Your words hold so much weight in your child’s heart. What you think of them is what they will think of themselves. Teach them to stand up when they fall, and learn from their mistakes. Comfort them when they are at their worst. Be patient with them when they are disobedient. You are your child’s comforter, and caretaker. Take pride in your role as their mother. Not every woman is blessed with the chance.
If you are a Lugo you have dark hair. If you are a Lugo you know your home cooked meals. If you are a Lugo you tilt your head back after a good meal and say “Uhh”
You’ll have to ask my uncle how that one got started. I have no idea where it came from, I just knew that when I was little and I ate at the Lugo table it was second nature to tilt you head back and say “Uhh” It signifies a satisfied belly, and compliments to the cook.
We lived with the Lugos a number of times growing up. Every time carried a new batch of memories. I’m so grateful that we had, and still have family nearby to depend on. Thank you Lugos, for taking all of us crazy Rodriguez girls in. We would have been lost without you.
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