Gone Camping

By Natalie

imageI am not in the business of leading you to believe that the events which take place in our lives are absolutely golden. Because just like everybody else, that is not always the case.imageWe went camping this past weekend and we did have quite a bit of fun, but I also managed to forget batteries for the lantern, misplaced Bingley’s long leash, and very last minute we decided we were in need of a sleeping bag.

Saturday morning we shoved most everything in our tent to meet Sara and Dave for an apple festival. After meandering around, wasting fourteen dollars on tickets, and wondering what all the fuss was about, we realized we were in the wrong place. Parking at a family farm full of kiddie swings, and hay mazes rather than an apple orchard.

Naturally Brandon was all “What’s the name of the place we’re supposed to be?” And when I responded he said, “Yea, that’s not where we are.” And he pointed to the sign out front that read Peach Farm. Copilot fail on my part for the umpteenth time in our marriage.

Because I consider myself such a planner… such an organized freak, these things just get my goat. Trickling their way in to ruin things. I give myself the hardest time. I don’t like it one bit, but I do send myself into these whirlwinds of self shaming, and I’m exhausted from it. This time it was forgetting things, and getting us wrong directions. Weeks ago it was accidentally demolishing a souvenir shot glass from Sacramento in the garbage disposal. Weeks before that it was having made a dinner without 2 important ingredients that made all the difference. And so on…

I can’t stand for it. Not when it’s only simple honest mistakes. Not when I remembered everything else on our trip including Wet Wipes that I excitedly whipped out like some kind of magician when Brandon plainly mentioned he wished to rinse his hands after his S’more Friday night.
imageimageimageBack at the campsite I sat to chop peppers, steak, and onion for our kabobs. B went out to grab batteries for the lantern, and I wanted to sit there feeling terrible that it was my fault he was needing to run out. But just before the thoughts could take hold of my mind I heard a bunch of children playing behind me shouting “Daddy this, and Dad that.” All while this father set up their camp. I thought to myself as I often do, “What will it be like to camp years from now and hear those words escape the mouths of our own little ones?”

Brandon came back and I totally had to apologize for my behavior. Then we moved on, and got to skewering our kabobs.imageimageimage

Swooooon.

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Fall Camping Essentials

As told by Natalie Poe for her kind of Camping

Leisure 

  • Tent
  • Camping Chairs
  • Sleeping Bag (as a top layer for warmth)
  • Air Mattress (lightly blown up to provide support for gravel sites)
  • Pillows
  • Flannel & or fleece blankets
  • Lantern
  • Book

Food Supplies

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  • Tablecloth
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Pot Holder
  • Grilling Tongs & Spatula
  • French Press or Percolator
  • Thermos (one for drinking water, one for coffee)
  • Scissors
  • Plastic Egg Carton
  • Salt & Pepper + Other Condiments
  • Camping Utensils
  • Plates
  • Paper Towel Roll
  • Wet Wipes
  • Long Skewers (for hot dogs & mallows!)
  • Pot for Water (to make coffee in the morning!)
  • Thermal bag (to keep the non refrigerated stuff from freezing, or melting)
  • Cooler
  • Ice packs
  • Camping Stove (this is what we heat out water up on.)
  • Firewood
  • Fire Starter (bricks or gel)
  • DIY Firestarter
  • Reusable Bags

Puppy

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  • Food & Water
  • Food & Water Bowl
  • Long Leash
  • Doggie Bags
  • Treats
  • Sweater (if you’ve got a small short haired pup who needs it)
  • Glow in the Dark Collar!

Clothing

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  • Layers, Layers, Layers! (especially when it’s warm during the day, and cool when the sun sets.)
  • Wigwam Socks (to keep your little piggies toasty)
  • Warm Sneakers, Boots, or Moccasins.
  • I like to wear athletic pants that I can pull fleece pj pants over for extra warmth
  • Hoodie
  • Long & Short Sleeve Tees
  • Hat (sadly not everyone has an awesome sister in law to knit them a warm hat like we do. So you will have to settle for some other ho hum hat.)
  • Fingerless Gloves
  • And of course, flannel!

DIY: Side Table

By Natalie

Last summer Brandon and I found ourselves walking through the aisles of Home Depot to find materials for our latest project. We had collected all of our wood, and were looking for the best set of nails when an older man passed by us chuckling. He said something along the lines of this project being my vision, and contracting my honey to create it. He was exactly right. I found a picture of a side table that I liked, and it seemed easy enough for my craftsman to put together.

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B had this project finished in just a few hours. Sawing, sanding, and drilling together this magnificent table with measurements of his own liking.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 3/4 inch Wood Planks
  • 4 Wood Posts
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Sander, or Sandpaper to smooth the edges
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Saw, or have the planks cut into the sizes of your liking
  • Stain

And then put it all together however tall, and spaced apart as you’d like. All you’ve really got to do after sanding the edges is screw the wood planks to the side, front, and top of the 4 wood posts. Then apply your stain. We actually had a stain that we were hoping to apply but never got around to it since I’ve loved the look of the natural wood.

Here she is…

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On Befriending My Curls

By Natalie

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After spending a muggy day outside this past summer my hair was more than what I would describe as poofy. Despite the frizz I decided to run to Michael’s to stock up on the supplies I was out of, and browse through the new fall decor. While I was browsing I came across this older woman who was dressed in her finest, looking like she had just come from her weekly salon appointment to have her hair done up. I motioned to squeeze past her as I thought she would most certainly judge my young manner of dressing in workout shorts, and a tie-dye tshirt. Hair gone awry, and flip flops flapping against my heels.

But she slowed her cart as we passed one another, made eye contact with me and said, “Your hair is very pretty.” with the sweetest old lady smile you’ve ever seen. Shocked, I blushingly smiled, and thanked her. I went home and looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “You know I wouldn’t be me without these curls.” Brandon is a huge fan of my curly head, most especially when they’re at their softest poofiest state. Even just today a woman passed me in the grocery store and complemented my curls. So why do I have the hardest time accepting them?

imageMaybe it’s because I’ve spent countless hours in front of the mirror trying my hardest to love them. Being tired of the fact that I can’t wake up, brush my hair and walk out the door. Maybe because I’ve endured several steam burns to the head while straightening the unruliness. Then curling iron curling them for a softer more acceptable look. Maybe because I’ve sat through the stinky, burning chemical relaxers in hopes of relaxing those defiant curls, only to later find out that now my roots were curly, and then ends lay limply straight against my shoulders. Not to mention all the hair loss. Maybe even because deep down I hate meeting someone for the first time with my natural curly head, only to later come across them with straight hair that gets complimented. That is the worst. It makes me feel like my curls are messy, and undesirable. Leaving me feeling uncomfortable in my natural head of hair.image

But this woman in Michaels, and the lady at the grocery store. They got me thinking.. I have a number of reasons to appreciate my locks.  A couple kind strangers, a handful of old coworkers who’d made it a point to compliment my uniqueness, one loving husband, a single Dove curly hair commercial, and alot of acceptance later I’ve decided to befriend my curls. That’s right! I said BEFRIEND them. From the cowlicks above my ears, to the roaring 20s wave on the left side of my temple, to the tight spirals that sit at the back of my cheekbones. I’ve come to terms with them. Most especially I’ve come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard I try to tame them, every single curl on my head has an intention of its own. After years and years of battling them, I confess to you I’m worn out. And you know what’s hilarious? The less product I put in them, the more beautifully they spring. It took me years to find that out! The more I’ve learned how to treat them the more they’ve been compromising with me. The irony is ridiculous.

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To my fellow curly heads,

Instead of shedding tears as I know you have while wishing desperately you were born with straight hair, start loving on those locks.

What I use to care for my curls
I’ve also used

I have tried the no shampoo method, replacing it with baking soda. I’ve also tried drying my hair with a cotton tee, instead of a terrycloth towel. Neither seemed to make much difference, and I really couldn’t handle the mess, and lack of scent with baking soda.

No curlyhead is the same. I must express my frustration with the fact that just because something works for me doesn’t even necessarily mean it’ll work for my sisters! I cannot necessarily walk up to another curly head, ask her how she nourishes her hair, and expect the same result. That fact can be frustrating, but really, it’s fantastic. Not one person has each individual curl that I do, where I do. We can totally be compared to snowflakes. Different, and beautiful, in our own unruly way.

Go on little snowflakes, be proud of that gorgeous head of hair!

The Apartment Upstairs

By Natalie

We are so backwards. When Brandon and I first got married we lived in the second floor of a house owned by an older man. The entire floor was a completed upstairs apartment featuring our own kitchen, laundry, bedroom, bath, and separate driveway. It was everything the pair of us young love birds needed.

imageAfter 2 years we left the apartment to spend the summer house sitting a close friend’s home, while she was on a missions trip. Which allowed us the time to house hunt without being held captive by a lease. At the end of the summer we bought our first house, and remained there for just under a year when we decided to uproot our lives completely and move to Charlotte, NC. Which felt very much like running away together. Being the best sort of romantic.

We found a townhouse in what we believed to be an alright neighborhood, only to find a year later that our commutes were less than ideal, and the places we enjoyed passing time were miles away. All summer I sat in bed at night flicking through our limited rental options on Zillow. Searching for homes that our little family would be comfortable in, and I couldn’t find a single thing. Which when you are aching to move, is the very worst feeling.

Then one evening I was sipping on my white mocha at our new found favorite coffee shop, and I spotted a decent apartment. Being in a smaller space wouldn’t be half bad if we were living in the area we actually wanted to live in. So we decided why not pack up from the townhouse, and move on to see what another area might be like? You see, there’s something you have to understand about us. The older we get the more often we gather to reassess our everchanging future. “Is this the right time for this? Should we wait longer to make one of those? Should we go ahead and revamp the dining chairs? Would two dogs actually be better? Nope definitely not. And which vacation should we be planning for next?”

Well this time it was a conversation about living space, and if sacrificing a little extra elbow room, and storage space was worth being part of a community we enjoyed. When you move away to find yourself, you don’t just sit in the first place you see, and figure it’s good enough. You keep striving for everything you’ve dreamed of, and moving until it feels right. Moving to an apartment in a different part of town felt right. So we went ahead and threw our name in the hat, and ended up with a move in date.

At this point you know I’m giddy. There is nothing I love more than spending a Saturday afternoon sifting through the junk all the way in the back corner of the closets. I’m not even worried about packing up our place on my own this time. Because let’s face it, Brandon will most likely be sitting in the midst of all his cables deciding which ones to keep like he was deciding the name of our first child. All in the time that it takes me to bubble wrap our entire kitchen.

As I’ve recently been deciding what stays, and what goes I’ve nostalgically been thinking back on our old apartment. And how now it won’t be referred to as simply the apartment, but our first place together. As we will technically soon be in an apartment for the second time.

Our landlord at our first home together turned out to be friendly. His outrageously obnoxious sneezes were plenty audible from our bedroom, and his grunts, and coughs everytime he ate a meal, were a little embarrassing when company was over. But that situation could have been so much worse.

The carpet in our bedroom was dark green, and the kitchen cabinets had forest green leaf handles. The standing shower with the gold trimmed doors was a nightmare to clean, and the trees in the driveway always dusted something on our cars no matter what season it was.

At one point we had a nasty run in with bugs. These tiny little vermin would scurry across our kitchen countertops, and I tried so very hard to convince myself that they were not cockroaches. Until the night I was making dinner with the stove on, and the oven preheating, when I managed to smoke out the mama roach. Screaming for Brandon to come quick I realized those were all of her babies on my counter that I had been smushing. B caught her, and later admit to me that he’d seen her before, but her quick little legs escaped him. I must have heated up wherever she was living, so much so that she needed to peek out, and that’s how she lost her life. But you know, I don’t feel bad. Because every morning, and every night I’d scrub those countertops clean, annoyed by those nasty bugs that were screwing with my cleanliness.imageNow here I sit in our living room full of furniture we picked out together. Bingley asleep at my feet, and the sound of jets soaring through the sky, and I’m thinking to myself.. “Back then, I never saw us here.”

Sometimes when I’m making dinner in front of the stove I’ll have visions of old mama roach, and she reminds me of where we’ve come from. That every difficult period, and every transition has been so perfectly placed in our lives to teach us something, and to remind us of how grateful we should be for those stepping stones that landed us on our montaintop.

Lazy 5 Ranch Adventure

By Natalie

imageThe last week of summer break I drove the boys up to the Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville. Which was easily one of my proudest moments as a nanny. An hour road trip with three boys, and no fuss, I think I did pretty good. Mandy totally let me borrow the van complete with a Wiggles soundtrack. Let me admit to you that it was so comfortable for the 4 of us. We’re quite the rowdy bunch, and a little extra leg room for our drive was very much appreciated.

imageimageOnce we pulled in the boys spilled out like jumping beans and headed straight for the playground, while I sat with Grant at a picnic table he was adamantly attempting to climb.

imageOnce the sweet things burned off some energy we hopped back in the van, and started our little drive through safari adventure.

After snapping this ↓ perfect photo I showed it to Caleb and said, “Look, he’s saying, hey Caleb! What’s up?!” To which Caleb giddily replied, “Noo, what is that lamb saying?”

Hehe. That kid. Every animal there he called a lamb.

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imageCaleb’s back in school now, and I soo miss having him around.

Yesterday I was talking to him with my back turned preparing a snack for Ryder, and Caleb ran up behind me and wrapped his arms around my middle to hug me. I crave those little heartmelting reassuring moments. And I’m absolutely in love when they express their affection.

imageThese guys licked my hand, and they were pretty sweet whenever we’d roll up to them. But after looking a little closer I started to really get freaked by their eyes. Creepy right?

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imageWoah. This Zebra was right up on us, and after seeing a sign that said don’t pet the zebras, Caleb and I agreed we’d best leave the windows up.

Also… I’m going to say they’re certainly white with black stripes. What do you think?

imageLook at that llama trying to pose as a giraffe.

imageHelloooo Deer.

imageimageThis was as close as Caleb would allow me to get to this beast. Which I felt was alright with me, since as you can see he was sort of charging toward us in hopes that we had some grub for him. Ryder, on the other hand was standing in the center of the van pointing, and shouting at the window. He was all about it.image

Does that not seem like the most fun outing ever? I’m so ready to go back!

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.

imageCaleb

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.

imageRyder

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.

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