charlotte | the best of both worlds.

this weekend seems like a blur. partly because my whole life does right now (how is it almost june??) and partly because i had a sinus infection that hit its peak while i was visiting. on mother's day, in particular.

also partly because i took like, six photos. (and, unless there's a photo reminding me that it happened, i probably won't remember that it did.)

anyway, i arrived on friday, just before dinnertime.

saturday was a full day of soccer in the morning, live streaming abby's graduation in time to see her walk across the stage (!!), and then helping T with a project she's been working on until it was time to go to church.

which, let me just hit pause on our weekend for a second. because one of my favorite things about charlotte – about having family there, visiting so frequently, the city in general – is elevation church.

usually, i keep the conversation focused on my family and how grateful i am that it worked out this way, that T and lee ended up in a place so easily accessible, that my parents followed (and J & A soon, too!). it's never lost on me how blessed i am that i get to have the best of both worlds, that i get to live my life in nashville and also pop over to charlotte once a month to see (most of) my family and watch my nephews grow up. i am in awe of how God worked out those details, solving problems before i even knew they existed.

what i talk about way less frequently is how incredible it is that they ended up in this place, where i have the opportunity to regularly worship at my two favorite churches (the belonging co, in nashville, and elevation church, in charlotte). maybe it's because i've always thought of it as more of a perk of having family in charlotte than one of the divine details of how it all worked out, but i've only just recently realized how much i truly have the best of both worlds – in my family life, and in my church life.

looking back, five or six years ago, i had no idea how much i would need this exact arrangement.

 cleaning crew. (sweeping and mopping with jack reminds me of lawn mowing and leaf blowing with luca, when he was this age.)

cleaning crew. (sweeping and mopping with jack reminds me of lawn mowing and leaf blowing with luca, when he was this age.)

i spent the night at my parents' house on saturday night, as i usually do when i'm in town for mother's day, because i know my mom likes having me there.

we enjoyed a slow morning, with coffee and chocolate covered strawberries and good conversation, and then we all went back to T's to spend the day.

as i mentioned, i don't really remember what happened this day, as i was mostly focused on how to make my face stop hurting. i do remember we had steak for lunch, which is not the greatest option when your sinus pressure is causing teeth and jaw pain.

i survived.

on monday, i was feeling much better as we carried on with pretty typical day-to-day, monday activities.

on monday night, T and lee went to a meeting at luca's new school, so i got to babysit.

luca likes to play "earth II," which involves him reenacting scenes from ...you guessed it, planet earth II, which you can watch on netflix. he has each episode memorized and will list them all out for you to pick which one you want him to do.

here is what happens: you sit in the black chair and watch as he acts out different scenes, moving his body around on all fours (in a way only a 4.5 year old can), climbing on the ottoman and couch, jumping off the ottoman and couch, making the animal noises, and also narrating with an accent like the narrator on the show has.

(also, this doesn't stop in the living room. when he's strapped into his seat in the car, he'll request from the backseat a particular song from the soundtrack, which he also has memorized – and can even tell you approximately in which order the songs go in.)

this is what we did on the night i babysat. jack (who was so tired – tired enough to sit still for an entire half hour) and i sat in the black chair and watched luca play.

later, luca would ask me to have a home date after jack went to bed and i obviously said yes to that, even if it was getting late. we drew hearts on construction paper, wrote our names, and then swapped papers so he has my heart and i have his. we've been on a lot of dates (many of which involved donuts), but this one might be my favorite of them all.

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i drove home on tuesday. always tuesday, so i can be back in time for church.

it's the best.

e a s t e r | 2 0 1 8

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this is easter, twenty eighteen.

luca is 4.5, jack is 1.5

the photo struggle was real this year, since jack is old enough to know what he doesn't want and walk away but still too young to understand what it means to cooperate – that the sooner you do, the sooner it's done – even with a bribe.

luca was happily sitting as close to me as he could possibly be in our photos, while jack just needed me to move my arm and not be touching him at all. luca didn't need treat bribes this year, but that's what jack's looking at. he would stand there, in the frame, but he needed a bunny snack and for me to not get too close. we have many hilarious versions of this where you can see him whining and twisting out of my arm. it's always nice to get a good photo, but also – this is what real life looks like. jack and i may be best friends, but that doesn't mean his love language is physical touch. the best photo i got all weekend is that one with me and my OG bff.

the many (many, many) photos of them two together are quite comical. the best one of them all involved a lot of cropping out moving hands and feet, but look at their faces! i can't get enough of them.

we went to church on saturday night, which freed up sunday for all the easter festivities at my parents' house.

like the easter egg hunt.

and dying eggs.

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and, of course, a photo shoot.

the rest of the trip involved trips to the park and picnics and donuts and playing outside with the boys during the day, and the greatest showman and bonfires and late night chats with T and lee at night.

charlotte | for a week.

for reasons i won't unpack here, i spent an entire week in charlotte in march. although, i will say, it was nice to have extra time, since i missed a visit in february.

it felt good to arrive and settle in and not have to pack up and drive back after a few days. it felt good to go about our days, setting alarms and working and switching loads of laundry, and end them each together, around the dinner table. it felt good to tell luca, when he asked when i was leaving not long after i arrived, that i would be there for all the days he went to school and even for the one after that.

 photo by luca, age 4.5, who so kindly left a spot for us to photoshop J into the picture.

photo by luca, age 4.5, who so kindly left a spot for us to photoshop J into the picture.

my first day was H's last day. we only had a few hours of time together, but i'm thankful for even the tiny bit of overlap we had.

mornings with luca/santa.

while jack napped and T was being an adult (and paying her bills), luca and i built a fort. when jack woke up, he joined in the fun.

this week wasn't a vacation visit, but an everyday life visit. (partly why my phone/camera was MIA for most of it.) everyone carried on as usual, and i jumped in to help my mom at work and T with her new project.

on the one day i worked at the office, i got a super delicious cookie from panera that was as big as my face. and yes, i ate the whole thing by myself. which definitely gave me an instant post-whole30 sugar headache, but i have no regrets.

the rest of the days, i worked from a makeshift desk in T's office, with the best view. i would say i don't know how she gets any work done, but her monitor conveniently blocks her view of the door, which i don't think was an accident. because when he's standing there, how can you not??

date night with luca.

after jack went to bed, we printed out about twelve pj masks coloring pages and got to work. update: he is still my favorite artist/colorer.

date day with luca. we sure did take full advantage of our time together.

this day, we went to the library and he picked out a few books, all of which were non-fiction. 100 facts about cheetahs, and that type of thing. i somehow tricked him into wandering the aisles with the storybooks and he humored me (aka followed me around, not browsing himself) for about five minutes before asking if we could go back to the other section. i was so surprised at his utter lack of interest in anything but non-fiction, except now i have no idea why because even i rarely wander into the fiction section.

the thing about luca right now is that he's very into african cats, animal facts, and the planet earth documentaries. his free play involves reenacting scenes from the documentaries (almost always on all fours, walking around or climbing on furniture and jumping off), including the narration. and it's not just that he's obsessed with it, but actually pays attention and dishes out facts in later conversations that never fail to catch me off guard.

at four and a half, he's already smarter than me. (and a much better colorer.)

lee was making jack laugh and i have about 75 of these photos because i can't get enough of that face. (or how great of a dad lee is. he can make those boys laugh like no one else can.)

another work day. another visit from jack.

he always wanted to come in, even if T wasn't in there. and i always let him. how could i not, with that peanut butter face??

we are best friends. who have the same taste in fashion.

playing tag. and realizing luca is old enough to play this game for real. he is fast!

before bed, luca will ask if i will wake him up in the morning. i don't actually know what his wakeup routine looks like anymore, since he's always awake before i am, but he used to ask that when someone always went to get him in the morning or from a nap. (now he's old enough to get himself up.) i think he just wants to know if i'll be there. i always tell him he'll wake up before i do, but he can wake me up.

and that he does. (jack's still in a crib, but these two are the only two people in the world i'd say that to. you're allowed to wake me up at any time of the morning.)

on this day, both boys came in and took turns giving me kisses. the best way to wake up, if you ask me.

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i worked for a little bit on this day, but T didn't. so i had two visitors waiting for me outside the door.

luca finding his belly button was such an event (and one of my favorite memories), so we were waiting for that day with jack. T said he'd already found it, and knew where it was if you asked, but on this day he gave us what we were looking for. he was suddenly obsessed and excited and you have one too? and luca and mommy too?

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group outing to see i can only imagine. (my mom really does love popcorn at the movies, but we all shared that bucket. in case you were wondering.)

and that's it. (i think T included more photos and stories in her post about it.)

charlotte | yeah!

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i don't usually visit charlotte in january, because my december trip is always extended and sometimes even runs into the new year, but a january trip just so happened to work out this year.

and so i went.

the day i arrived, T and lee went out to dinner with our cousins and i got to hang out with my nephews. it might seem funny that i essentially arrived in time for them to hand me two children with their plates of dinner and say, "k thanks bye!" but it wasn't.

one, because it wasn't actually that rushed. there were a few hours in between my arrival and their departure. and two, that is basically what i secretly hope for every time i visit. apparently it's what luca always hopes for as well because he didn't even wait for it to be time for them to leave before he kindly told T she could take jack downstairs while he and i played upstairs.

aka, auntie's here now so you can go, if you want to.

i fed them dinner, like a proper babysitter. and then we had all the fun. that mostly involved a raging dance party to an instrumental song on the tarzan soundtrack (which luca prefers over the trolls soundtrack ??). and then more books at bedtime than would usually be appropriate.

also i just want to explain to you how rare it is that i get a photo of me and both of them together where they are both smiling and genuinely look happy and interested in what's happening. and these two i got that night were the ONLY two. obviously, i snapped more than these two, but the window of getting a photo like these is VERY SMALL. like, i'm pretty sure these weren't even the photos i captured, but thankfully the live photo exists, where you can go in and select which frame actually contains this rare and golden moment. which i kindly filtered into black and white because, did i mention that i drove almost seven hours earlier that morning?

anyway, it was only because i got those precious hours of just-me-and-them time that i volunteered to spend the entire day on saturday away from them and helping my mom instead, doing the work i spent three years pre-nashville doing (and very much not enjoying).

data entry!

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i don't miss that dual-screen life.

to be fair, i never actually had two monitors when i worked for my mom, though it would've been incredibly helpful if i had. in fact, when i quit, i left behind a beautiful 27-inch imac computer that was wonderfully synched with my personal itunes library for easy listening while i worked. in my final stretch of working there, i attribute my at-work sanity entirely to the imac. (yes, and also to the fact that my boss was also my mom, which came with privileges i will say are somewhat similar to being the youngest child – speaking from experience. she treated all her employees fairly, but i can't say that if any of the other accounting associates requested dunkin donuts for our weekly staff meetings, she would've brought them in every time.) but, i have lived the dual-screen office life and it's kind of all the same, isn't it? when you need two monitors, your job is kind of intense.

but bookkeeping and data entry, while helpful in areas of personal growth, are most certainly not my calling. i will be forever thankful for the opportunities (and donuts) that job afforded me, but i am also incredibly thankful for the passing of that season. though, it was kind of nice to dip my toes back in, six (!!) years later, and remember how i got to where i am.

it helped that it was only for one day.

it also helped that, for the second half of the day, my job was to go shopping for frames, put prints in those frames, and then hang them on the wall. and, not just any prints, but my prints. the one-of-each my mom purchased when i first opened the shop, with the intention of displaying them in her office to advertise for me, because she is my biggest fan.

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y'all. i cannot.

my mom is simply the best.

to be honest, the rest of the trip is kind of a blur, as i recap close to march and backdate to january.

luca is now tall enough in his seat to reach that handle above the car door. that's what these photos are documenting, along with some silly faces.

i think we went to my parents' house? i mean, we did, because i have some photos of luca "fixing" a chair there. but literally all of my photos from this trip are of my nephews only, so there is no real proof that anyone else was there at all. (except there is because T blogs weekly now.)

and obviously someone has to be driving the car we are sitting in, because squishing between two car seats in the backseat of a sedan is not my idea of a super fun pastime.

jack now says "yeah!" and in true jack fashion, he says it (exclaims it) in a whisper. just like his roar and "waffle." T and i spent the majority of this weekend asking him yes or no questions (that we knew the answer was yes to) just so we could hear it. it's adorable, and there's never any shortage of excitement from him about saying yes. sort of like how luca went through a phase of saying "no way" instead of a simple "no." except the opposite. (although i will say that jack does let you know when it's a no.)

he also does that thing luca used to do, where he squints his eyes shut when you ask what a bunny says.

and we're still in the phase where the carseat photos are some of the best ones i get. because, you know, he is strapped in and has no where to go.

i just remembered i'm the one who bought him this wooden toolbox set. (and was immediately like, "but your dad will have to teach you how to use it because i can't help you there.") (also he's twice the age he was when i gave it to him. what?) thankfully, he has learned how to use the tools, otherwise someone might've fallen out of that broken chair before he fixed it, and he takes that work very seriously.

on monday, after we picked him up from school, luca asked to have a donut date with me. which was, obviously, the best. T is always saying how he asks her on dates regularly, and he did insist i be a third wheel on their date when i visited for christmas, but this time i got one of my very own.

he still goes for the pink frosted donuts (they had no sprinkles this time), holds up his toys to be in photos, and my favorite person to have a conversation with.

jack has been very into wearing this pair of crocs at all times of day and, if it were up to him, nighttime too. (but we say night night to those crocs like they need to get their rest at bedtime and nap time too.) i think he also wears them in the bath, which i know because i've heard what happens when it's time to get his feet washed.

he also sits still long enough to read books, and he has a few favorites he likes to read over and over again. (looking at you, tiny board book of opposites.)

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that's it. that's all i got.

i do want to clarify that luca isn't scrolling instagram, but google image searching rescue bots. it's like the next best thing if he can't actually watch the show. and, while i don't necessarily understand the thrill of it, it still remains that basically anything luca asks me to do is something i suddenly absolutely want to do.