The Difference Between a Nanny & a Sitter

By Natalie

imageMy sister told me recently that she caught a snippet of Mary Poppins, and thought of me. I could not have asked for a better compliment. While I have a serious knack for tidying up, and a decent sized bag full of goodies, I have to admit I am far from Mary Poppins. The birds out back sadly don’t land on my finger to sing with me, and the boys take their medicine just fine. But we do jump into rain puddles, and sing about made up words. Getting the best use out of our imaginations while we play.

Perhaps if I had that fabulous apron, and a very large floating umbrella I would be complete. Spit Spot.

I’m also not even close to a governess, but fraulein Maria continues to be a source of inspiration. Running, and skipping about while children chase behind me. Cuddling them close during thunderstorms, and caring for them as my own. I could almost guarantee you that had I lived back then, Governess would be my career of choice. imageOther notable nannies I’ve related myself to…

The nanny from Baby’s Day Out

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The nanny from The Nanny Diaries

Although, thank goodness I am not nannying for a family living in the Upper West Side.

imageTo be referred to as a nanny is to say that you care for one family of children, and have been doing so for some time. We are not ones who come to spend a few hours with children while their parents are out. It is possibly my greatest pet peeve to be called a baby sitter, when in fact my job entails much more than monitoring, and playing.

After Grant’s morning nap today we drove to the mall to pass some time. We stepped into the kids play area, and Grant immediately began playing peekaboo with me from behind the big yellow duck. Sitting across from me was an older man watching his grandson play. His grandson, close to G’s age began chasing him, sending G off in the other direction squealing. Turning every so often to be sure that his friend was still close behind.

I stepped out of the play area for just a moment to grasp Grant’s hand when he wandered too far, and I spoke to him as if he understood exactly what I was saying. “Nope, nope, lets go back to the big yellow duck.”

Once he ran off again the older man sitting on the bench called out to me. “Ma’am” he said.

Knowing I was the only one around I made eye contact with him, and said, “Yes?”

“Are you that little boy’s nanny?” He asked.

I smiled knowing his blonde hair, matched with my tan skin was a dead giveaway. “I am.” I said.

Then the man pushed his glasses up, and motioned for me to come sit next to him. “Come here I want to tell you something.”

So I sat down next to him anxious to hear his wisdom.

“I just wanted to tell you that I had a nanny when I was a boy. She was with us for seven years. And now I’m seventy something, and I still remember her. I loved that woman.”

Unable to control the large grateful lump in my throat I smiled, and said. “Really??”

He continued. “You should know that everything you’re instilling in that boy, he’s going to remember it. You have a great purpose.”

And I knew right then that God placed me right where he wants me. I thanked the man over and over again for his kind words and encouragement, and sat there with him for the remainder of his stay to chat about the boys. All the while Grant would walk over every few minutes to rest his head on my leg, checking in to be sure I was still around. When the man stood up to leave he shook my hand with the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen, and I said “It was so good to meet you.”

imageThat friends, was the beginning of the most sentimental day I’ve lived. Everything I did with Grant seemed to be happening at a reduced pace. Life, slowing itself down for me to gather up all the moments in my memory. When we got home, we had lunch, read a few stories, set up the camera to photograph the day I never want to forget, (Which by the way, Bailey rolling around in the grass was comically unplanned, and perfect) until finally it was naptime, and I was not ready to put him down. So we sat together in the glider listening to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star play softly on the monitor. I watched as my hand upon his back rose and fell with his growing baby breaths. His little hands brushing alongside the glider’s soft fabric, and I really wanted to tear up, but I knew that would be silly.

I set Grant down in his crib after he drifted off to sleep, and stood at his door for another few minutes. My mind ripping forward memories of him when he was three months old, and we were just getting to know eachother. “I am but one person in his life.” I thought. In the grand scheme of things, I am so small.

With the largest heart for these boys, I want to be everything I need to be for them. I can only hope that they too will grow older, and reminisce on the time we shared together.


Good Company

By Natalie

imageI must tell you that these three vivacious little boys have increased my stamina this summer. Solely throughout the day. Then I get home, and pass out on my dinner plate, but I stress to you that it’s the best sort of exaustion.

We discovered this awesome little outdoor play area near Southpark Mall’s food court. When I saw that it had those blue sail like shade panels I knew we’d have to check it out, cause this summer’s sun has been no joke. The boys have been retreating to the small shaded spots of the playgrounds, Unwilling to play due to the extreme heat.

At the parks moms, and grandmas have been sneaking glances over at me, and playfully stating, “So, three boys…”

And I’ll respond, “Yep, they’re wonderful little balls of energy. But the real hero is their mom. I’m just the nanny.”

Then the women become even more curious, by my care, and affection for these kiddos. imageI’ve started to notice some similarities between the boys, like the fact that after I set their lunch plates down, and before I can manage to get a bite of my own lunch, all three have scarfed everything down, and are asking for more. Those boys can eat! And all I can do is pray over the fridge in that kitchen, for the food to stretch, and multiply. There’s just no other way around keeping up with it.

imageLook at that handsome kid!!! He just turned ONE. Can you believe it!? He’s been walking all over the place, and loving to explore on those feet.

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In efforts to beat this summer’s humidity we’ve been swimming at the neighborhood pool nearly every day!! By doing so the boys and I are happily avoiding laying limp on the sidewalk like a plate of cooked spinach.

imageOne day on our walk back to the house from the pool there were these neighborhood kids who had set up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. Lost in the bliss of summer leisure Caleb and I found ourselves unable to resist a dollar a cup lemonade, from a genuine kid run lemonade stand. So we strolled back to the house, raced down the driveway, grabbed four quarters, and headed back up toward the stand.

All the way I was quizzing Caleb on how many quarters were in a dollar. He’d slow his skipping down the street to peak into his fistful of change, and respond FOUR!!

Check. Out. That. Grin. ↓ You just can’t put a price on it.

imageWe also discovered this fabulous little splashground just around the corner, where we sat for lunch, and stayed for play.

imageThough these brothers share some strikingly similar qualities, they remind me daily that they’re each their own little man.

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constantly surprises me with his knowledge. I’ve loved getting to know him better on his summer break. There was a day this summer when Grant wasn’t feeling so hot, and got sick in his carseat on our way to camp. I decided to pull over into the library after hearing Ry say “Eww, nas-tyyy, nas-tyy!” Caleb, worried about Grant’s inability to keep his breakfast down, was not so sure what to do. He was confused and sensed a change in schedule, his sweet little mind allowing a bit of anxiety to wash over him.

I looked back at him and I said calmly, “Caleb, I’m going to pull over. Grantsy doesn’t feel well, so I’m going to stop, and clean him up super fast, and then I’m going to drop you and Ryder off at camp! And you are going to have so much fun at camp today, because you love camp!”

He calmed down a bit, but was still pretty uncertain about the slight change in plans. A moment later he reached his hand forward and said in a distressed tone “Madalie, hold my hand.. hold my hand please Madalie.”

I reached my hand back to squeeze his, as we drove into the library parking lot just like that.

I consider myself blessed to be someone who is able to walk him through the unfamiliar.. blessed in such a way that I don’t know I could describe. Whenever he is uncertain about things, and searching for my signals on how he should respond a wave of compassion rolls over me, and I think about how much I love him. How much I want for his future. If I can aid in him getting there, I have quenched something so great in me that no other job could ever satisfy.

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is the quirkiest, silliest, curliest, tank of an affection-craver. I pushed him to tell me “Ryder’s Turn” when he wanted a shot on the backyard swing. Now, with minimal effort he says it in the sweetest way possible, and I never ever want to forget it.

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Grant

has sort of turned into a mini Ryder. Eyeing my breakfast banana while he smacks his lips in expectancy. Don’t you pull your baby tricks on me Grantsy. I know all the secrets, cause I’ve pulled them all too.

He’s developling this strong personality. And most often he wishes to be close to where the action’s at. He loves games, and squeezes, and under the chin tickles which is where I’ve found the best belly laugh out of him. He definitely knows what he wants, and goes right for it. He has incredible focus, and I can already see how his qualities will develop into some wonderful assets in a man.

A few days ago I spotted a big ol bug on the dining room floor, and I squealed, and yelled for Caleb to grab his Croc, and smash it. I am not in the business of trapping bugs, and carrying them outside. Too much can happen on the trip outside, and I’d rather not risk being touched by them or potentially losing them. Bugs in the house get squashed when I’m around.

So Caleb runs to grab his Croc, and Ryder is squatting down to inspect this creature. I noticed Ryder’s intrigue and quickly screamed for him not to touch it. But of course that only intrigued him more, reaching for the bug now with a smirk on his face. Caleb got to it first, and began slamming his shoe on the little centipede looking thing.

At this point Grant was interested in all the ruckus, and he was making his way over to the action. “No Grant!” I yelled, as he peaked back at me. Caleb kept smacking against the floor, the lifeless bug flying in the air with each hit. Ryder kept trying to grab at it, and Grant was getting closer and closer to the whole mess. So I grabbed a paper towel and squeeled as I scooped the bug to toss him. The boys were giggling at my disgust all the while.

I thought to myself, these boys… My little bug smashers… They are exactly who I want to be around.

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness: Part 2

By Natalie

You can read part 1 to this post here. You can also read similar posts here, and here.

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Do you ever feel scared? If so, what about specifically?

It’s scary when I hear about Lupus sufferers experiencing damage to major organs as a result of a flare. Chemotherapy treatments for severe symptoms, the reality of this incurable disease becoming fatal and the risks involved with pregnancy. Would I have complications? Would I be able to handle the inevitable exhaustion of caring for a newborn? I worry about my husband having to take care of me more than he already does and a baby. Will I have to reevaluate my career in teaching and eventually leave the profession because the responsibilities and stress take a toll on my body?

 What do you want people to know about you, and your illness?

She sighs

Good mornings may turn into rough afternoons, and evenings as symptoms are sometimes unpredictable. I’m healthiest when I choose activities carefully and pace myself.
It’s sometimes lonely because I feel people just don’t understand what Lupus is or what it’s like to live with this chronic illness. I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

I wish people could validate what I’m going through and knew that I’m fighting harder than they realize. It’s hard for me to articulate what I feel or need because I know I usually look fine on the outside. They have no idea that I go home after a long workday completely drained of energy and utterly exhausted. I’m often unable to enjoy life after work or on the weekends because my body needs rest.

I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

Lupus sometimes forces me out of social events. I have to explain to people that I can’t take part in a party or celebration. Having to reject requests to spend time with others due to my health always brings along some sadness and guilt. I don’t want people to get offended or annoyed, but I get tired of explaining my issues to others. However, I’ve also learned that if I am to expect a broader understanding from those around me, it’s important to honestly vocalize what I’m going through so others can empathize.
I also don’t want to burden people. I feel bad and push myself because I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of them. For example, after Nadir’s baby showerHosted a baby shower for our sister my foot was hurting really bad and I was feeling fatigued. Sean asked, “What would you do if you could get up right now?” I appreciated his willingness to help, but felt obligated to limp across the room and start cleaning. I struggle with not wanting to feel useless. It’s important for me to still feel useful. I need to feel like I’m still serving a purpose.

How can people be most helpful?

Encouraging words. If there’s something physically to be done while they’re around. Motions around the home.
It’s easy for people to forget because I try to look good on the outside.

How does having lupus affect your future?

Nem: I don’t know if we’re ever going to start a family. I’m getting older, and to change the dynamic of our family is scary. Would Sean end up caring for our child? The new normal requires that I keep up with medications, and pace myself. I’m not supposed to overexert myself.. I need to get enough sleep. It definitey restricts me.

Sean: You know, it’s kind of a lose, lose situation. Either we don’t have kids and later regret it, or we have kids and risk Nem’s health. It’s why for so long we keep avoiding the subject.

What have you learned?

I have so much more compassion and understanding for people living with a chronic illness or other health issues. I don’t always feel strong and courageous, but I hope to inspire others with my story. Raising awareness and knowledge empowers me and gives me a voice!
I’ve always been pretty self sufficient, so it’s been hard, but I’m learning that it’s ok to accept love and compassion from those who care enough to ask me how I’m doing. I deserve the support, sympathy and help that others offer without feeling any guilt.

I’ve become more educated about the illness and I’m learning to listen to my body so I guess you could say I’ve found a new normal which reduces some of my fears. My quality of life has drastically changed because of Lupus, but it’s all about perspective! Although I have physical limitations at times, I will probably always have to take a bunch of medications, and experience emotional ups and downs.

I’ve learned to value the blessings in my life so much more now! My faith and the incredible support system I have in my family and friends, keeps me going and I’m so grateful! God still has a plan and purpose for me and it is good! I try to embrace life one day at a time and not let setbacks hinder me from dreaming and setting goals. Faith has always been my life’s anchor and I know that God is STILL in control, even when I feel like my body and circumstances are out of control.

Summer So Far

By Natalie

Laura came to Charlotte for a week. Which meant we essentially had the opportunity to have a mini staycation while we showed her all around town.

Wednesday

We went to a Knights game, where we ate our fill of peanuts and cracker jacks.

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After the game we ran across the street to Romare Bearden Park, cause I had been wanting to visit. And the lights out there were just too magnificent to pass up. imageWe tromped around through the grass, past a black lab chasing after a light up ball. Past some guys doing a little meditation, and past the color changing waterfall. Silly things happened at Romare Bearden. Some very silly things. image

Thursday

Carowinds is essentially in our back yard, so we decided to spend the day there. And it was hot hot hot. Which is why logically we stood in line for a good 30-40 minutes for this white water rapids ride. Oh yes, we did. It’s part of the experience.

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imageFriday

How lucky was I to have a buddy spend the day with me on my birthday??

We ran a few errands before heading to breakfast at my favorite brunch spot uptown (where I succesfully parked on the street! Go me!!), only to realize they only serve brunch on the weekends. Womp womp.

After peeking at the lunch menu we decided to stick around for the chicken salad sandwiches, and run to Amelie’s after for our coffee fix… and we had a couple macaroons there too, not gonna lie. After a long totally soul satisfying girly chat on life, and futures we ran over to Freedom Park, to show Laura some of Charlotte’s green.

Once B came home we all got ready to go to my birthday dinner at Fahrenheit. Which was not only a delectable dinner and dessert seated on the 21st floor, but right outside was this spectacular view.
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Saturday

We hit up Mama’s Coffeehouse for breakfast so Brandon could nail this pano of us behind every door. And so Laura could leave her mark in Charlotte. imageimage

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How sweet is that? ↑


Pause for these little cuties.

We went on a much too long, so long I may have developed blisters on my feet walk along the greenway.

You see, the thing about this greenway is that it doesn’t loop, So I keep walking, and walking, not wanting to turn back too soon. And that’s how we ended up strolling for 3 miles. But deep down I really don’t mind it, because there is something about the sippy cups in the back pocket, swaying next to the baby wipes. Something about a morning stroll through the trees that really makes me feel like a true nanny.  image


The Thursday after Laura flew home my sisters came for a visit, which was a bit of a surprise since I was originally expecting Nem, and our mom. Mom stayed behind (Don’t worry, she’s here now!) so that Nadir, and Norah could suprise me for the best ever belated birthday present.

That’s right. My niece’s first road trip was to see her Titi!The auntie version of Tia, if you don’t already know.

And we had some beautiful sister time that I had been craving… which p.s. how odd is it that now we have this fourth member to add to our girl clan? Norah!! You have Rodriguez girl in you.

imageAnd yep.. we like to bring our guests here. It’s our fave coffee spot, can you tell?

We met up with Mandy and little G so all my family could meet eachother. And it was perfect. imageimageYou’re about to find out that I have a thing for babies wrapped in blankets. Perhaps I should have my baby in the winter..imageimageNorah went to the mall with us!!! And she did amazing! Even when her Titi’s took too long in the dressing rooms. She just went along for the stroll, happy to be a part of our very first foursome shopping spree.

imageNorah wrapped in the blankey I made her. ↓ My first time sewing with satin binding. Not too shabby eh?

When I rocked this sweet girl to sleep I couldn’t help but stare at those sleepy little eyelids of hers. Thinking to myself how innocent and pure she is. How small she is. How she has no idea how many people love her so much. And all I could do as we rocked was pray for her. For her precious mind to be guarded, and her innocence to keep. For her to feel the love around her, and to give her parents the strength, and patience to raise her.

Sleeping babies, they really get you thinking.

imageWhen Norah’s not power napping she’s working out those cheek muscles and giving out smiles to those who are worthy. Go on Norah take us out with a smile!

GOOD-NESS My heart is melting. image

Convicted

By Natalie

I want to blame you for everything.

Because forgiveness is just too much work.

I want to blame you for hurting people I love, but that’s not my fight. It’s theirs.

I want to blame you for my struggle with self worth, and acceptance, but then how would I ever learn to love myself?

I want to blame you for making me think that my husband will be done with me one day, just like you were.

But you didn’t tell me that lie did you? Sure you showed me in your actions. But you never told me that. I believed it for myself. I tell myself that lie everyday. And I really really really want to point a finger at you, and demand an apology because you hurt me. But I don’t think that’d all of a sudden change my mind.

Change doesn’t begin with you, but with me. Because I absolutely refuse to be your victim anymore. And I have to continuously tell myself that. Because honestly, I haven’t quite forgiven you yet. I thought maybe I had. But continuing to blame you is not forgiveness. And I want to be forgiving in my life.

I refuse to sit back and wait for Brandon to disappoint me. Because I am haunted by the idea that I would need to apologize to him on my death bed for not trusting him, due to your mistakes. Those were YOUR mistakes. Not his. I pray for a healthy growing marriage, and I’m never going to get anywhere if I continue to blame you. It’s about me now.

So I’m going to try and stop thinking of you as the reason for all my insecurities, and start thinking of you as someone who is in need of compassion, and forgiveness.

Luckily for me my God is not a God of lies. Luckily for me he designed a husband for me who is commited beyond my understanding. And more full of love for me than I ever felt from you.

How We Vacation: Charleston

By Natalie

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Who’s idea was it to vacation in Charleston in this blazing heat?? Surely we weren’t thinking clearly when we pushed our trip from May to June.

Hot, muggy, beautiful Charleston,

Thanks for the tan.

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imageThis trip was actually amazing now that I’ve had a moment to think about it. We like to vacation with no particular plan in mind. No scheduled tours, no itinerary, just a handful of bookmarked Yelp found eateries, and places we might like to see.

Which works out pretty well for our personalities.

We revisited an Inn in Mt. Pleasant which perfectly sat us twelve minutes from downtown Charleston, and twelve minutes from Isle of Palms Beach in the other direction. We stayed at this inn for our 1 year anniversary and loved it so much we decided to go back, and I’d highly recommend! Three years later and this place still had an amazing breakfast, and wonderful service.

imageAlso, this cooler bag is a must.

Through my sunglasses I watched as a younger couple argued in the sand. The man stood red faced next his cooler on wheels, as the woman pointed toward the shore. “Look, right over there.” She said.

“If we just sit it on the packed wet sand, it’ll be fine.”

The man shook his head, clearly annoyed with beads of sweat rolling down his temple. “No, no no.. this thing’s gonna tip. I don’t know why we brought it.”

And yea, unless I was providing a beach lunch for a crowd, I’d have left the rolling cooler behind too.

This ↓ thermal bag is a much more practical option. To be honest I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Thinking it’d solely get it’s use from the occasional picnic. But it’s proven to be great for the beach, (as seen previously here) and road trips too. It fits a few ice packs, and several tall drinks. Plus.. it’s personalized.

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This is my Could we pretty please stop by that cute Cafe a few blocks up? face. Cause I was getting pretty sun tired. image

I know, I know. Rainbow Row. It’s beautiful, it’s iconic. It’s a see it once, take a pano, and move along kind of place. We’re the type of people who drove across the golden gate bridge, took a few pics from inside the car, and zipped by the vistapoint. Cause.. the experience had been had. I saw the golden gate bridge for the first time. The moment was over as quickly as it came. It wasn’t going to do a backflip for me. It just was what it was. This magnificent structure that I had the privilege to see. And that was that.

Later, during that trip B and I had lunch at a restaurant near the harbor. The fog had cleared, and the top of the golden gate was just becoming visible. I peaked around Brandon to see the bridge standing ahead.

I remember the bridge pretty well.. but what’s much more vivid in my memory is that moment spent with Brandon. That moment where we sat together discussing all the new sights we were seeing.

I had the same experience when I went to Europe with my sister. We sat at a table outside a cafe in the middle of Athens. And just to the left of Nem’s head sat the Parthenon. It was such a surreal moment. We saw it up close. We toured it, and then there it sat in all it’s ruin, while Nem and I sipped our iced coffees. The parthenon was pretty fantastic, but so was the time we spent together. Attempting to thank our waiter in Greek.

We saw the trevi fountain together, and I remember it being crowded. Everyone scrambling to toss their coin in, and get a picture. I remember that we hung back, stepped into a gelato shop instead, and devoured the creamiest italian gelato with the fountain in our peripherals.

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I like keeping it that way. Spotting landmarks, and stealing a moment to take them in, and then focus on the person I’m sharing in that moment with. That’s what it’s all about for me.

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After rainbow row, we hit up Carmella’s. The doors were wide open inviting us inside to the cooler air. The menu had italian ice listed at the top. Sold. After tasting a sampling of Coconut Cream I COULD NOT turn it down.

The woman behind the counter asked if we’d like a glass of water to which we exasperatingly replied. “Please, yes, please, thank you so much.” Because we sweat gallons this trip, and being dehydrated makes you cranky, and no one wants a cranky spouse on vacation.

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Rosy cheeks, and happy. That’s what we were going for.

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p.s. How can my husband still look so manly while eating tangerine italian ice with a baby spoon?

I love him.imageAnd that’s how our trip went. Perfectly relaxing, and restoring. With a pleasant overdose of Vitamin D.

Life Lately…

By Natalie

2015 is rolling right along, and so much has grabbed my attention, that I thought I’d give you a quick recap of Life Lately. Hang with me, we’re goin fast!

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My beautiful sister Nadir gave birth to her first born last month! I’m amazed by my sister’s strength, and overwhlemed with the beauty of a woman’s ability to go through pregnancy, and childbirth! It’s alot of work to bring life into the world! I was so excited to visit just a couple days later to share in their blessing.

imageNorah did not dissappoint. She’s pretty stinking adorable, and she’s leaving the whole family smitten with love for her. Passing down my crown of being the youngest isn’t half bad.

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School is almost out! Which means I get to see more of this cool kid ↓↓

Bring on the summertime fun!

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If you follow me on Instagram you know I found the best Farmer’s Market ever!  On Saturday I excused  myself past people to grab a giant 34 cent carrot.. Have I grown up, or have I grown up?

My first visit I stood over baskets of strawberries with giddiness in my eyes, because those strawberries were tantalizingly bright red, and gorgeous. After the man who proudly grew them noticed I was interested he said, “Go ahead and try them there strawberries.” Tickled by his accent, and guiltlessly wanting a taste I picked up a little red guy and bit just below the green. And it.. was.. the best dang strawberry I’ve ever tasted.

The next week when I asked B to tag along he insited we grab a cantaloupe. But once we got to the pile we stared at the cantaloupe, and then at eachother. How do you pick a good cantaloupe? There’s so many rules to ripeness.. how will I possibly remember them all? This one’s too green.. this one’s too hard.. this one doesn’t smell strong enough.

“I think you smell the butt.” I said to B.

To which he replied. “But they all smell so good.”

“Whenna you gonna cut it?” An older man asked, noticing we were in need of assistance.

“Umm probably today.” I said. Then he proceeded to grab at the cantaloupe, and handed us a good one, and moved on. And it was a GOOD one.

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Cherries just like the ones we’d pick off of the tree when I was little. How could I pass that up?

When I was 2 or 3 I’d galavant through the backyard with cherries in hand, and when my mom asked me what they were I’d say “Gwapes” and she’d say “They’re Cherries!”

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Plants!!! call me crazy, but I had no idea there’d be more than produce, and fresh flowers at the farmer’s market. I stared at an oversized pot full of Elephant Ears as tall as I am, for 10 minutes. Deliberating… Because, I really, really, wanted those guys in my home. But, I settled for a hanging pot of succulents to accompany the bedroom window. And really, can you go wrong with succulents?

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Speaking of plants…

I found this precious nursery not too far from where I work. imageI wasn’t expecting too much, but once I walked in I followed the sign for houseplants, and I stepped into this beautiful haven. Mhmm I’ll take one of each pretty please.


During a casual Wednesday morning trip to Jo-Ann’s with little Grant I spotted this fabric, and could not get over how it had our entire living room color scheme. After getting a couple feet cut for a bunting I grabbed some matching bias tape, and whipped out my coupons. Because Jo-Ann’s ALWAYS has coupons. Total for this DIY was five dollars! [And lots of leftover scrap fabric for other projects.]image

When I got home I popped in an old musical, and got to tracing, cutting, and sewing.

Since we’re living in a rental I’ve been using as many Command hooks as possible to avoid holes in the wall, and it hasn’t been too big a deal aside from the fact that I miss our curtains. But this bunting has been a stunning alternative!

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In case you wondered..

Bingley wanted to say hello.

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Oh! And I thought you’d like this pretty decent little drawing we spotted on our table at Mama’s Coffeehouse. image

Life’s been pretty sweet huh?

The Misunderstood Middle

By Natalie

It has come to my attention that being a middle child can be the pits.

My middle sister has always spoken out about the struggles of being in the middle, but as I was the baby, and had most things handed to me, I of course had no idea what she was talking about.

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On a Tuesday afternoon Ryder awoke from his nap to the sound of his older brother kicking off his shoes, and chattering on about how he needed to get ready for swim team in an hour.

Thinking nothing of it I lead Ryder down the ladder of his bunk, to and from the potty, and straight to his afternoon snack. Where of course, in no more than 2 minutes he emptied his cup of water. Because napping is a dehydrating business.

After finishing his snack, and wrestling with Caleb, Ryder excitedly ran about the house when Dad came home. But Caleb was to be taken to swim class, and Ryder was to stay home with me.. Whom we’ll refer to as Chop Liver.. no, no, I get it. Three year old boy finds Dad and older brother riding on a longboard down to the pool much more fun than staying at home with baby brother, and nanny.

Just before the door shut Ryder excitedly pranced behind his brother and quickly waved back at me yelling “Bye! Bye!” And when I told him he was staying behind, and Daddy shut the door, the saddest little tears came pouring, and pouring out.

“Oh Ry.” I said as I knelt down. “We’ll do anything you want! Caleb and Daddy will be right back. And do you know who else will be here soon?” He looked into my eyes expectantly. “Mommy.” I said. And the tears stopped.

I grabbed his hand and walked to the playroom with him where I finally set Grant down infront of a toy car. Because that kid is on the move these days, and if you set him down for a second, poof! Before you know it he’s in the next room.

I set an array of toys, and books around Grant, and tickled him to hear that happy distinct baby giggle he loves to express. And then I looked up to find Ryder staring at the books, meandering around the playroom, mumbling new words to himself. And it hit me. Everything my sister has tried to express.

Don’t forget about the middle.

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There he was sort of content, but more so used to the fact that big brother gets to go do big brother things, and baby brother has to be monitored to prevent little hands from finding the zillions of things that are choking hazard size, and the numerous amounts of bumps and bruises that could be. The fast crawling, wanting to stand, and lean on everything baby.. It’s like your eyes grow accustomed to realizing just how treacherous the world is out there two feet from the floor.

“Pick out a book.” I said to Ryder by the bookshelf. Where he of course picked out his same favorites and brought them over to me. I took my time reading them on the floor with him in my lap. “Does a kangaroo have a mother too?” He looked over at the floor mirror to see our reflection, and my facial expressions as I read. “Yes! A kangaroo has a mother. Just like me, and you.” And he loves that part because I give Yes a special infliction, and then point to myself, and then to him. Reading aloud is all about the dynamics.

So there we sat, happily on the playroom floor. Grant was occupied, and in view, and Ryder was getting all the attention he’d been craving. “Ryder.” I said, spinning him around. “You are extra special, you know. My silly, fellow curly headed friend.”

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The other day, after a morning full of park fun we put Grant down for his nap, and stepped into the boys room. We sat down, and I pulled Ryder’s shoes, and socks off. Told him to grab his Giraffe off the dresser to nap with, and he ran back over to me on the floor excitedly throwing his arms around my neck, and squeezing.

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And I knew it was his way of telling me he’d had a wonderful day.

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How about, I didn’t even realize I matched him to his cup until this photo. Go me.

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness

By Natalie

Since my sister Nem’s diagnosis with Lupus I’ve been wanting to chat with her about her daily struggles, in order to share her words to give friends and family a better understanding of what she is going through.

During a recent trip to Fredericksburg we finally had a free moment to talk over breakfast about her life with Lupus, and what she so simply descibes as her new normal.

This woman I spoke to, she’s another version of the sister I grew up with. In some ways I’m reminded she’s the same, but mostly she’s different. She’s tough, she’s disciplined, she’s faithful, and she isn’t going to let any old illness take control over her life no matter how extreme it attacks her body. No matter how invisible.

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When were you diagnosed with Lupus, and what was your immediate reaction?

On September 24th 2012 I was diagnosed with Lupus as a primary disease, & Sjogren’s Syndrome as a secondary disease. The doctor told me on the phone that I had a positive ANA test which meant that I had autoimmune activity going on in my body. I went to a Rheumatologist for more blood work, and she told me I had Lupus and Sjogren’s.

I immediately started taking PlaquenilA common Lupus medication. My initial reaction after the diagnosis was shock. Sean called while I was in the pharmacy waiting on my prescription. He asked how the visit went. It wasn’t until that moment that it hit me, and I just started crying when I told him I was diagnosed with lupus.

What are typical daily tasks that you find yourself unable to do?

I have good days and bad days. After 2.5 years on medication, several detox diets, and learning to listen to my body, it’s gotten better. At first, I wasn’t able to complete my Saturday morning routines of running errands and cleaning my home, I had to discontinue rigorous exercise, and I often wasn’t able to make it through a work day. 
My new “normal” requires that I actively listen to my body and rest when needed so I don’t wear myself out. I need to get plenty of sleep and reduce stress as much as possible. If I don’t, my body will go in shut down mode, leaving me unable to do anything. I’m always reminded that Lupus is there even when I pretend it isn’t. Whenever I push myself, I always pay the price.

I was devastated because I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle by working out and watching what I eat, but my efforts couldn’t have prevented what was going on in my body. I didn’t do anything to cause this, it just happened and there was nothing I could do about my body attacking itself. I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis after months of not feeling like myself, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional distress that it caused. I soon became depressed and continually grieved for my old life. I would see people on social media living their lives (fun outings, working out, etc…) and I made myself miserable by comparing myself to others. People were doing what they wanted to do while I felt helpless and unable to live my life fully because my body simply wouldn’t allow me.

What is your body feeling at those times when you’re helpless in need of rest?

One of the big issues of life with lupus is its unpredictable nature, meaning one day I can feel like my old self, and the next I just want to stay curled up in bed all day with extreme fatigue. It’s not like a sleepy or tired fatigue, but one of weakness. Like when you have the flu, and your whole body feels heavy and achy. I also get joint pain in my arms, wrists, hands, and legs accompanied by muscle aches. This discomfort and weakness has left me unable to walk at times. It can make my body feel so tired that I sometimes just want to cry at the thought of doing one more thing, or meeting one more obligation. I’ve also experienced nausea, GI issues, insomnia, and frequent migraines.

A flare can happen at any time and be brought on by a variety of triggers. It could be a busy weekend, eating certain foods, staying up too late too often, stress or long hours of work can eventually trigger a flare. Other times, it seems to happen for no apparent reason at all. It can be mild or severe, and it’s impossible to tell which it’s going to be from the outset of an attack.

As there is no current cure for Lupus how much medication are you required to take daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Right now I take 16 pills a day including supplements to keep my immune system up. I take medications to manage joint and muscle pain associated with Lupus flare ups.

About six months after my initial Lupus diagnosis I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I take medication for that as well.

How has your diet changed since your diagnosis?

A stricter diet has significantly added to our grocery bill. I eat raw and organic as much as possible with very limited amounts of processed foods.

How have people treated you since you were diagnosed?

At work, my coworkers have united in supporting me in every way possible. Being an elementary school teacher I have to walk my class to their encore classes, lunch, and recess. Teachers in my grade level have walked my class to and from these places, written sub plans when I couldn’t make it through a day, and my principal has even driven me home a number of times when I felt unable to walk.

I’ve really realized I have such an incredible support system. I know my family prays for me a lot, and checks up on me, and wants to know how I’m doing. Several months after I was diagnosed when you signed us all up for the lupus walk in D.C., that was a really big deal to me.

The love box. (A box full of goodies, homemade creations, and encouraging words Nadir and I put together each month.) Means so much to me.

How has it affected your marriage?

A few months after my diagnosis, Sean and I had the biggest disagreement we’ve ever had. I was frustrated as we discussed the delay in our plans of starting a family due to my illness. I was still processing my feelings and was angry that our plans had to change, but I didn’t realize I was taking it out on Sean until he said “I’m not the enemy here. Whatever you need, I’m here no matter what! We need to take care of you right now and worry about this later.”

He cooks and does a lot more housework since I’m not always physically able to handle it all anymore. He’s understanding, and encouraging when I’m feeling down or thinking it’s going to be this hard forever. He reminds me that “It’s just a bad day. We’re going to get through it and soon we’ll be celebrating a good day.” He also does a good job of communicating with me about my physical and emotional state. Because it’s an invisible illness, he can’t always tell if I’m trying to tough it out and so he always asks how I’m doing. 
He is helpful, often reminds me that he loves and supports me, has a positive attitude and his hobbies serve as an outlet that keeps him balanced which is good for both of us.

How do you feel it has affected your family and coworkers?

I think it’s made my family sad. I think it’s made my family feel helpless. But at the same time I think it’s also given my family the opportunity to love on me.
My coworkers feel helpless also, and it means alot to me when they offer to walk my kids to specials, or lunch. When they ask me how I am. For them to offer their support makes them feel like they can do something. Sometimes I don’t know what to tell my family I need. That’s why the love box is meaningful. Sometimes all I need is an encouraging word. Acknowledging that I look ok on the outside but not on the inside.
I take it one day at a time.


Nem and I also got a chance to chat about what she’s learned with Lupus, her future, and what she wishes people understood about her illness.

Stay tuned for that post coming soon!

Blue Apron

By Natalie

imageBrandon recently discovered this meal delivery service going by the name of Blue Apron. He sent me this honest review to look over, and we decided we should give it a shot. The service offers a 2 person plan with 3 meals a week, and a 4 person plan with 2 meals a week, charging 9.99 a person, per meal. The thought of 3 less meals to plan and shop for was intriguing enough for me, because time is money, and my least favorite chore is meal planning. I fall back on the same recipes often, stick to the same meat and veggies, cooked the same way, and blah blah blah blah blah. I made a pretty good crockpot chili recently, so two weeks later I made it again. And this crockpot chili.. it made A LOT of chili. So here we were eating chili two days in a row for lunch and dinner two weeks apart. Worse things have happened at dinner time I absolutely realize this, but after four years of cooking for two I am fresh out of ideas.

I signed up for Blue Apron after I found a $20 off coupon from a Facebook ad. I was sold. Half the time wracking my brain for yummy meal ideas I hated cooking, and slicing off some time in the grocery store. Absolutely I’m in.

With Blue Apron you can view the menu for the week before it ships, and you choose the day it ships to you.. What the what? We buy everything we can on Amazon, and that’s not a big deal. We order Bingley’s food from Chewy, because it’s not sold just anywhere, and it’s cheaper online! So sure I’ll take a 28lb bag of dog food autoshipped straight to my DOORSTEP every 6 weeks.. because hello? Convenient. Why on earth have we not ordered dinner straight to our door that’s not take out sooner? Beats me! You can also check off certain meats you do not want to receive, opt for the vegetarian meals.. And you can cancel at anytime. Sold. Right?

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A few days ago I recieved my first box, and I have never been so excited to see a box full of vegetables in my life! Our ingredients came in a refrigerated box, along with step by step photo recipe cards, and a letter stating where the vegetables had been grown. I started pulling out these vegetables I had never cooked or even heard of before like Celeriac, or Celery Root, Fennel Bulb, and Fronds. I placed the veggies in the fridge unsure if I was going to be a fan of the mushrooms, and mostly certain I’d be in over my head with those radishes.

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After putting the veggies away I placed the ice packs that covered the meat in the freezer, cause they fit perfect in our cooler, and once we start to collect too many Blue Apron suggests that you recycle them, or donate them to boy scout troops, or food shelters.

Saturday night I made our first meal and it was fantastic! Hello tastebuds, I never knew Salmon I cooked with these two hands would ever taste so good!

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Dukkah-Spiced Salmon

I always thought that I hated cooking. Hated the planning. Hated the shopping. Hated the preparing, and measureing, and figuring what veggies go well together, and with what meats. I’ll admit the majority of meals lately have been chicken, and pork chops, baked with some generic seasonings, and breadcrumbs. Salad, frozen steamable veggies, sweet potato, or asparagus on the side. Zucchini is about as exciting as it got with veggies in the kitchen. Simply roasted on the stovetop with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cause.. I don’t know.. what else do you do with a zucchini? I’m a twenty three year old wife trying to cook an appealing dinner. I need to learn these things like what on earth else to do with that zucchini.

…So I’ve hated cooking for a long long time. Settling for Breakfast for dinner way too often, or eating out more than is necessary, or Brandon’s personal favorite, griping and complaining about how now I have to make dinner because it’s already 5:30, and that’s about dinner time, and never mind the fact that I was perfectly comfortable on the couch, I have a husband to cook for.

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But now… Blue Apron has made me appreciative. I have a husband to cook for. I have a husband I get to show off my fancy meals to.. And he delights in their flavor, and sends compliments across the table. Giving kisses when his plate is clean, and his belly is full.

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Sirloin Tip Steak with new potato, asparagus, and radish hash

I realized in the midst of this meal prep that a diced red onion, fresh green parsley, finely chopped pistachios, and freshly squeezed lemon juice all smells pretty dang good together. So good my eyes were watering from the potency. Those smells are welcome to stay in my kitchen forever.

When I signed up for Blue Apron I was only expecting to have a few meals a week taken care of. But it’s been so much more. Not only is their website an excellent resource for recipes, but I’m also familiarizing myself with several different foods, and spices I’ve never heard of, or would have tried otherwise. Which I hope will allow me to eventually create my own new recipes.

I understand meal delivery plans are not for everyone, but I had to share our positive results. Just keep in mind they’re not particularly cost effective, but they are super tasty, and a great kick start if you have a bad case of the meal planning blahs.

And guess what? I was a fan of the mushrooms.

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