the one where mom and i have a day.

i don't know why i felt the need to title this like it's an episode of friends. but my weekends in charlotte, outside of birthdays and holidays, all kind of blur together, so it feels appropriate. this is the weekend my mom texted and asked if i'd come early so we could have a day, just the two of us.

the thing is, i go to charlotte once a month to see my nephews. so i can watch them grow, so they can see my face without a screen. so i can know who they are, and they can know who i am.

it's a bonus that my parents live about three minutes down the road, because that means i get to see them once a month too. the trick is, though, to not let all of our time together be shared time. because if luca's asking me to chase him, the answer is yes. if he roars in my direction, i'm roaring back. and if jack wants to tell me something in his sweet baby babble voice, i'm listening. we all feel this way, like those boys are the trump card.

and so, sometimes it's good to have time in charlotte, without them. it's good to have uninterrupted conversation, while sitting in chairs (as opposed to the floor, with legos and rescue bots lined up at our feet). it's good to have them to come home to at the end of the day.

our day together was largely based around this idea of taking me to an art gallery. because i love art galleries! she knows this about me. what my dad knows about me, on the other hand, is that i could do without all of his side-eyeing at the art. so while he was invited to join us, he chose to sit this one out.

on the way home, my mom commented that she thought he would've had fun with us. and i laughed, because i could hear his voice in my head from a conversation we'd had a while back.

me: remember that time we went to an art gallery for my 18th birthday?
him: did you enjoy that? i thought it was hideously boring.

it still makes me laugh out loud to think about. at 18, i had no idea! i dragged my whole family to this museum. i wore a tiara. i had so much fun with it that i didn't think (or maybe didn't care) to notice if anyone else having having as much fun as i was. but years later, the truth comes out. and you know what? looking at art does not have to be a thing my dad and i do together. and that's okay.

my mom, though, was up for the adventure.

it turns out, the art gallery was located on a street with lots of artsy things, including the green. which is, as described by google, a "petite park" with a literary theme.

it was art and words, and not what we originally came for. but we both agreed it was the best part of our day.

we had lunch at a restaurant next door, visited another museum, and then headed back.

on saturday, i spent the morning at another park. a playground park. (the weather in the south during "winter," y'all.)

this is charlotte, in february.

luca is three (and a half) years, jack is five months.

holding hands and taking car selfies. two of my favorite things, although the car selfie struggle is real these days.

taking photos at the park when the sun is in your eyes and you just need a nap is also a struggle.

luca and i played tag, made a new (4-year-old) friend named kinley, went down the slide (him), and went on the swings (him pushing me).

things i learned about luca while playing at the park: he is kind and sweet and patient and friendly. he would stop and wait if another kid was trying to come down the stairs as he was trying to go up. he would randomly stop and say hello to other kids (girls, mainly) and say "i'm just saying hi" when they looked at him in confusion.

and when i said i couldn't climb on the playground with him (because i'm a grown up and don't need to be taking up all the space), he told me, "you can! be strong." and then, "remember, jesus is always with you." i love that this is his response to fear – for when he feels afraid, and what he shares with others when he thinks they feel afraid.

on the way back (or on the way to church, i can't remember) is when i took all these closeup photos of jack's face. because i am obsessed with it, and that scrunchy nose and that open-mouth grin. and those eyes! they are blue, with some green? hazel? brown? it depends on the light? whatever it is, it's my new favorite color.

THIS is why i sleep at T's house. so these faces are the first ones i see when i wake up. for the morning snuggles and book reading that lead to games of hide and seek and pillow fights.

later, my parents stopped by. i said goodbye to them, got in some play time and snuggles with my nephews, and drove back to nashville.

PS. luca, on the left, at 5 months and 5 days. jack, on the right, at 5 months and 4 days.

this year, so far.

the end of twenty sixteen was one thing after another after another. i actually had a note saved in my phone with each day, and all of my commitments, listed out. i had a separate list, of things i needed (or wanted) to do, and i would comb the first list for openings. on this day, i have time between the chiropractor and church to run to the mall. or, i'll have time to grocery shop on my way home from work that day. all of my time was accounted for and, as someone who needs a lot of "me time" to recharge, i found it to be very exhausting and, in some ways, it feels like i am still recovering.

(because, january has mostly been a steady rotation of congestion, sinus pressure, and a sore throat – thankfully never all at once – with a few days of aaaalmost feeling better sprinkled in between.)

january had nothing on the calendar, though, and it was quiet and glorious and looked a little something like this.

i took almost no photos. because i did almost nothing. usually by the time weekends came around, i felt exhausted. from the week, from this lingering cold. basically all of my photos are of the boys i nanny. sometimes together, mostly separately.

i did an overnight nanny job. with the little guy i watch every day. and even though i sleep at my sister's house when i visit, and would absolutely wake up at any time of night for my nephews, i've never had to. i've never been solely responsible for a little human all night before. it was fine, but i also had this fallback of it's only one night. and this is why i know i'm not ready to be a mom. he woke up at 5:27am.

i fasted television. including netflix AND hulu (and those are the only two forms of tv i watch). as part of a 21-day fast that basically my whole church participated in. technically, it's not over yet so i will save my comments about it for later.

i read six books. my goal this year is 52. (a few years ago, i attempted to read 24 and didn't quite hit that mark.) ever since i gave up netflix last spring and realized how quickly i go through books, 52 doesn't seem like an intimidating amount.

i also read a lot of political things. it would probably be equivalent to another book or two, with the amount of words i've read. and i have a lot of thoughts about it, which i won't discuss here, but i do want to mention the struggle in finding balance. with how to take in enough information to be informed but not so much that i'm consumed by it, and with how to talk about it. as someone with a degree in communications, i keep coming back to the latter. maybe the thing that gets me is not how much or how little i read, but the ways in which it's being discussed and shared – the ways in which i feel like i want to take in and learn so much, but am not able to process or let any of it out.

and that is how i ended my january. by deleting the twitter app off my phone and texting my sister to tell her we should talk about politics more.

here are some good things january brought me.

montague workshop. brad montague, creator of kid president, has a new youtube channel where he creates and uploads the most inspiring videos. the still above is from the video "a pep talk about a pep talk," but if you only watch one video today, let it be "a story about a bird."

branden harvey's weekly goodnewsletter. in an attempt to highlight hopeful newsworthy stories that are often (always) overshadowed by stories from our brokenness, branden started sending out a weekly newsletter with the silver linings to terrible events, or unrelated feel-good stories that remind you the good does exist. you can read more about it and sign up here.

the "work your window" series at elevation church. the best way i can describe what this series is about is to quote pastor steven from week three, "the power of potential:" if i use what i've got, god will be what i am not. recommended for anyone who gets stuck in that cycle of "it's all i've got, but it's not enough, but it's all i've got."

the chronicles of narnia. by c.s. lewis. i never read these growing up, which is kind of weird considering i grew up in church and wasn't allowed to read harry potter. why did no one suggest i read these books instead? maybe i wouldn't have gotten as much from them if i'd read them when i was younger, but these books are doing good things for my soul right now.

twenty six(teen).

i never wrote about my birthday. about twenty six.

i guess i didn't feel like talking about it. writing about it. (over) thinking about it.

the first half was a struggle. a mess of trying and failing and continuously cutting myself on the pieces of my life as i attempted to put it back together again.

the second half felt like freedom. like i could breathe again.

twenty six was breaking ground.

so many people are saying "bye felicia" to twenty sixteen and not looking back. it was the worst, they'll say (among other things). for me, though, it was the best worst. i think this past year (and some change), being twenty six + twenty sixteen, is a place i'll always come back to.

it was the year i learned who i am, in a way that feels shocking to consider i hadn't known, not really, up until this point. it shifted, i think, when i read pastor steven furtick's unqualified, and started to describe myself by saying "i am..." through the lens of the I AM. which feels obvious and ground breaking at the same time.

it was the year i learned closure does not come from another person. that we are all responsible for our own selves. what we think and say and do. what we believe, about ourselves and about other people. what we carry with us and what we set free. we get to decide those things.

it was the year i read and listened and learned about politics. to the point where i have an opinion, and i know what i'm talking about. (but, the likelihood that i'll ever choose to talk about it is pretty slim.)

it was the year i learned the value of taking care of myself. of listening, and responding, to my body. of saying "no" and resting. of saying "yes" to things that typically give me social anxiety. of drinking more water. of going to the chiropractor and practicing better posture. of investing in (and learning about) essential oils.

it was the year i learned how to say things out loud. to speak truth over myself. to be honest and vulnerable. to say "yes please" and accept grace (upon grace).

it was the year i learned "not enough" is not real. that loving another nephew wasn't a matter of how to make room for more, but that it already exists. that "i'm possible."

it was the year i learned how to be still, and what happens when you lift empty hands in worship. when you stop wondering how to have faith and realize it lives in the space where you no longer leave room for "plan b."

i keep thinking about march.

i keep writing and deleting, searching for the right words to make it sound clean and pretty. but march was neither of those things.

march felt like the worst part of everything. it wasn't "rock bottom" in the sense that it was the lowest i'd ever gone, situationally, but it was in the sense that it was the deepest i'd ever been inside myself. to the part of me that's the most honest and raw and asks, "is god really good? because this doesn't look good."

it was a pretty uncomfortable place to find myself in. startling, to realize that question was hidden inside me. but, after months of treading water, thinking what i was doing was called faith, i was exhausted. i can't do this anymore, i thought.

what am i missing? faith is not supposed to be like this.

looking back, it all feels so obvious. and yet, it's so easy to forget. jesus called peter out to walk on the water, not to fend for himself and grow weary, treading water.

i don't think anyone has the right words to describe what happens when you choose to believe god is good, in spite of everything else. when you choose to believe this thing is true, for you. when you choose to build your life upon this foundation, and live through this lens of trusting, not that everything happens for a reason, but that it all has value. that in the end, it all measures up to something good.

march was the breakthrough, when everything shifted from struggle to freedom.

i keep coming back to it. partly because there is so much beauty in that tension, and partly because i didn't understand it. part of me just wanted to see march through this new lens, to make sense of what happened and where god was while i was being pushed to my very core.

i know sometimes we don't get those answers, but i kept coming back to it, turning it over in my head.

recently, i remembered that time when my nephew was first learning to walk. knowing he couldn't quite do it by himself, he would grab our hands and pull us along, through the kitchen and into the dining room, circling back to the living room.

when we'd let go and encourage him to take steps on his own, he would hesitate and look from face to face. "you can do it!" we'd say, cheering and waving our hands. and when he fell, inevitably, we'd help him back up and let go, once again.

"it's okay! you can do it!"

i think, maybe, march was like learning to walk. or rather, the part near the end, where no one held my hand anymore and i was the only one who didn't know how close i was.

i think god was with me in march, but i took his hands-off approach with confusion, instead of hearing his encouragement. i think he was right beside me, cheering me on.

come on. you can do it.

my friend mal wrote this instagram caption a while ago and i wanted to clap my hands together when i read it.

i've learned that the hard conversations are the best ones. not because they're easy or they're fun, but because they force depth and trust and truth. lie says that they break and they cut but really they bind and they stick and they heal.

i've thought about this a lot, but never enough to wrap words around it quite like she did. i think it's true, but i also think hard things can break you down and cut you apart if you let them. or, if you let them, they can make you stronger. but you have to keep pushing through.

they say the best way out is through.

twenty six(teen) was like a hard conversation. it was messy and uncomfortable, but it brought healing and growth. and i can't help but be thankful for it, a little more than i am thankful it's over.

(speaking of instagram.)

here are the highlights:

purchasing art
having faith
drinking coffee
meeting jack
laughing with luca
writing in sharpie
seeing needtobreathe
breaking the french press
getting another sister

books of 2016.

this one time (last april), i was watching an episode of friday night lights on netflix when i spontaneously decided to stop watching tv altogether. because, when you don't have a job and all of your time is free time and the excuse of needing "down time" is eliminated, you start to really consider how you're spending your time and if you are, in fact, pursuing those things you claim you would, if only you had the time. i don't know what it was about that particular episode, or maybe it was the fact that i felt bored while watching (because, how is that even possible), that made me realize i had the time, and i was doing practically nothing with it.

mid-episode, i closed my computer (bye coach taylor) and picked up a book. and then another one. and another. and within a month, i had read six books. it was sort of shocking to realize i was capable of that, considering i'd finished only two books in the first four months of 2016 – both of which i'd started in the fall of 2015. (yikes.)

reading, of course, is not the only way i spent my time. in fact, i mostly only read while i babysat sleeping babies (which happened pretty frequently and also confused the moms to no end. they were always clarifying, "you know you can watch tv, right??") it's just that, in the process of giving up tv, i discovered how much i really enjoyed reading, and how much i really don't love watching tv.

when i got a job, i was on netflix again the very next day, but i tried my best to keep up the reading momentum and take advantage of nap times, especially since the little guy i watch is still doing two-a-days.

i ended the year with 24 books read, all of which are listed below. in the order in which i read them, i think. these few, in particular, were my favorites.

the artist's way (julia cameron) this book basically changed my life. which sounds dramatic, but it changed the way i view creativity and that changes everything. it's not a book you should sit down and just read, cover to cover. (though, technically, you could.) if you let it, it will teach you how to tap into your creative self, which exists in everyone (even you, i promise). if nothing else, i recommend trying out the morning pages routine.

daring greatly (brené brown) this book is the only one of hers i've read so far, and it makes me want to read all the others. i was endlessly fascinated by the way she describes people because it's all based on research and not personal experience. i love personal stories and perspectives, but it was interesting to read about patterns that exist in human behavior.

cold tangerines (shauna niequist) my boss has all of her books, so i took it upon myself to borrow a couple during nap times. shauna writes like she's sitting across from you at a coffeeshop, sharing her stories and the lessons she's learned and the things she thinks about. as i read, i kept thinking this is how i want to write. conversational but profound. i have lots of photos on my phone of pages i wanted to mark up, but couldn't.

if you find this letter (hannah brencher) this one took me the longest to read, partly because of laziness and partly because i would re-read whole chapters. this girl is my age (ish), but so full of wisdom and encouragement. this book made me put pen to paper again.

HARRY POTTER (j.k. rowling) y'all, when my fifth grade teacher started reading the first book to our class, for fun, i loved it – and quickly found out my parents ...didn't. and so, i was that kid who sat in the hallway and read my own books (ironically, the wizard of oz), at my parents' request. this year, i decided i can make my own decisions and when i found out one of my friends is a big fan and has all the books, i jumped at the opportunity to borrow them, one by one.

these books were super fun to read and i can see why some people get really into it. i did sign up for a pottermore account to see which house i'd be sorted into, but i don't have plans to visit harry potter world, in case you were wondering where i was on the commitment scale.

the complete list of 2016 reads.

if you find this letter, hannah brencher.

a prayer journal, flannery o'conner.

looking for lovely, annie downs.

writing to find yourself, ally fallon.

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone, j.k. rowling.

harry potter and the chamber of secrets, j.k. rowling.

daring greatly, brené brown.

me before you, jojo moyes.

harry potter and the prisoner of askaban, j.k. rowling.

why not me? mindy kaling.

high fidelity, nick hornby.

big magic, elizabeth gilbert.

harry potter and the goblet of fire, j.k. rowling.

unqualified, steven furtick.

the artist's way, julia cameron.

cold tangerines, shauna niequist.

harry potter and the order of the phoenix, j.k. rowling.

if you feel too much, jamie tworkowski.

the writing life, annie dillard.

bittersweet, shauna niequist.

the art of memoir, mary karr.

harry potter and the half-blood prince, j.k. rowling.

sisterhood everlasting, ann brashares.

harry potter and the deathly hallows, j.k. rowling.