Our Home After Three Years.

In my last post I dropped the bomb that we are moving to Utah! And while I know it's felt like something scary and drastic to some of our friends and family, I really am feeling positive that given some time, our new home (when we find or build one) will be a great place for us all. I love a good visitor! 

I've been meaning to share before and after (or in progress) shots of our home and we know how that goes. I'll get to it, turns into I meant to, which has now turned into dang it we are moving and I still haven't done it! These "after" shots were taken by our listing team and while a lot of the photos that make it personal to us (there was a gallery wall and everything!) are taken down, these do a good job representing our home! Today is also a super special day because it makes three years since we bought this gem of ours and we're really going to miss it. So let's jump right in. 

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Our house is the first as you come into the neighborhood. We did landscaping, new styled shutters, and changed the paint color of the shutters and the door to a charcoal gray instead of black. 

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This is our dining room! The wall to the left with the gold shelf had the bulk of our gallery wall of family photos and it spilled over to almost every wall in this picture. It was without a doubt my favorite part of this house and I can't wait to put it back up in Utah. Our house feels so bland without it!

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When we moved in this room off what we use as our dining room, was the formal living room. We extended the hardwoods throughout the entire main floor, made this our office, added barn doors, and a murphy bed! This is where our grand parents stay if they come in town to visit. 

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Oh our kitchen! We added more shelving, backsplash, new granite, new sink and facet, new stainless steel appliances, double oven, extended the island, and got all new lighting! This is one of the biggest transformations of the entire house. 

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The first huge difference here is the hardwoods in place of the carpet. We also added our message board, and you can really see the gray wall color here that we used throughout the house. 

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This is the patio right off the kitchen that is now the boys playroom! This space is their favorite. Fun fact: The flooring is the same turf that Mike and I walked down the aisle on at our wedding! I may just have to rip it up and take it with us, haha!

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A cozy space for our favorite guests.

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The boys room! There's an animal head wall with like 20 animals and the map on the wall was given to Dean as a gift before he was born by his Auntie Nesser!

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Our master! We didn't make many big changes upstairs beyond the paint color and the light fixtures. Next on our list was going to be hardwoods upstairs and renovating the bathrooms!

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Our back yard was literally a forest, complete with deer and everything. We took down all the trees, added a fire pit, and it's been the perfect space for parties, water ballon fights, and running through the sprinklers. We're really going to miss this home of ours. 

Don't Be Discouraged.

This is a post I think I have written no less than fifteen times in my head. I've been trying to find a way to make it a little bit less raw. A little bit more poetic to cover up a little bit of the wake it left. But I've decided to just start here: On October 23rd of this year (the day after his birthday), Mike got laid off. 

To give some background, Mike and I met in training for our job. During that first year, we were able to become friends and just enjoy each other. We obviously got married and had kids, but it all started because a friendship grew in a place neither one of us really expected to be. All that to say, that morning when I had just finished dropping the boys off at school and the phone rang, my heart plummeted when Mike voiced that he had just lost his job.

I called my mom and then my grandparents before getting back to the house and I just wept. My heart was hurting for my husband, I was a little angry, and I guess if I had to really think about it, I was probably starting to grieve the life that we had been afforded. Mike and I literally spend all day, most days together. What would that new normal look like? Could it be better than what we had? I was overwhelmed but I walked in the house, hugged Mike, and then went to the living room, got on my knees, and cry-prayed all of my hopes for this time, my fears, my aggravations. 

The next few weeks were okay. Even typing that I realize how blessed we are that it was weeks (maybe two months) and not longer like most people face when put in this position. Mike was in oddly good spirits and I was doing my very best to be the encouraging, supportive wife that I imagined a husband would appreciate in this sort of situation. I just wanted him to be able to look back at this time and be like, "dang my wife held it down". I wanted to make sure he was confident that whatever comes our way, I've got him. We were both really good at protecting our marriage in the middle of the mess. We were hurt, but hopeful that God would turn it around. To put it in the words of Thunderclap, the pterosaur from The Good Dinosaur, "The storm provides". No rain, no rainbow. I prayed and I became (probably annoyingly) excited for the adventure on the other side of the storm. 

Next year that adventure is coming in the form of a cross country move to Cedar City, Utah! Mike landed the job of his dreams with a company that values it employees (and their families) unlike anything I've ever seen. It was too incredible to turn down and it's going to mean a lot for our family. We might be moving a little further from our family and friends in Georgia, but hopefully our California family will get to spend more time with us! Also, the living is sllooowww in this little cute town in Utah. We're hopeful that we'll have a lot more time to spend with our boys making memories that root them in love, faith, and hope. 

So that's where we are.. A little bit of what got us there, and our hopes for what's on the horizon. 

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Exhale.

We are in a season of waiting. Soon I will go into why we're waiting and what we're waiting for, but good grief the waiting is hard. I feel like Mike and I both kind of have the blues so I figured I should take some time to record some things I'm thankful for, right in this moment. I keep telling him that like any other season change or with any other life event, you can always look back and think, "so that's why that took so long!" or "well dang, that did all add up for my good!". So I as sit here, lacking any tiny bit of creativity or inspiration and am feeling in a bit of a slump, here's my list.

I am thankful for:

  1. A husband that continuously proves how easy he is to love. He's been through a lot in the last few weeks and I know it can be tough to be strong, but I see you babe. You are always shining. I hope my love has made this season a little softer. 
  2. Two boys that are hard-headed but are softening me to my core. These days, probably more than when they were infants, I catch myself staring at them in awe. It's almost a battle between wanting to cry because they keep growing and wanting to hide because they won't stop trying my patience. Either way, there are likely tears involved and blame it on the season or the weather, but my Grinchy heart is about to explode. This mama thing never makes sense, but it is oh, so good. 
  3. Everybody in the Quil family. DayQuil, NyQuil, all of them. The flu has rocked our little unit and I may have snapped on Mike a few times (I am SOOOOO sorry for what I said before I took my meds), but we are slowly coming back to normal and I'm glad about it. 
  4. A job that I don't always love, but allows me to support my family. If I could tell you how many times a day I want to throw my computer at the wall.. well, you could probably relate. There are a lot of those times. BUT, there are also a lot of times where I can see what this job allows me and in this season, its most evident.
  5. Even though in this moment, I'm feeling like some kind of creative imposter (is that even a thing?!), I'm thankful for the talents that God's given me, even though I don't know what I want/need to do with them. This time of year always seems to be a struggle for me in the 'what the heck am I supposed to be doing with my life' category. I don't know if I'm alone in feeling this way, but its a heavy weight and I just don't know what to do. None of my creative endeavors (photography, painting, blah blah blah...) feel good enough right now. And I don't even know to whom they don't feel good enough for?! If it's not evident by now, did I mention I'm in a slump?
  6. The carrot cake whoopie pies at Trader Joe's.
  7. A God who listens, yet does things His way. Because His way is always better.
  8. Opportunity. Because you don't stay in a slump forever and on the other side of any bad mood is opportunity for a lot of good to happen or be created. And if you're really lucky, a cocktail is there too. 
 
Image by Akia and Co. 

Image by Akia and Co

To My Leo (written on his first birthday).

You are one whole entire year old. I seriously can't believe you've grown so fast. People warned that with you being the second born (especially so close in age to your brother) that the time would fly. I didn't want to believe them but they were right. 

You add so much to our wolf pack, pooks. You are strong. I have a feeling that you're going to have quite a few people looking up to that strength one day. And though it's true, you can push almost any heavy object clear across the living room while mama is begging you not to, its more of what's on the inside that leaves me in awe some times. You don't give up. You laugh at the idea of not being able to get what you want and you've been that way since you were born. We watch you lock into things and the determination you have until you do whatever you set your mind to is inspirational for me, for sure. I hope that when you're older I can say that you've always tackled life the same way. 

You are so kind and mama just started tearing up a little bit just thinking about it. You laugh and there's not a single person who can stop smiling. You lean in and reach for people when they need it most. And while I'm sure some could argue that you're just a baby with needs of his own, I'm pretty certain you know how and when to lean into the needs of others. Mama for sure has had a rough day (or few) this past year and I can always count on you to snuggle up with me and hold me close. I pray that as you grow, you never forget to be there for others. The world needs someone exactly like you. 

You have won your brother's heart. And although his friend Duke is his "best friend" now (seriously, I think the three of you are becoming more like brothers), he would walk ten thousand miles to be by your side. He's fiercely protective and my hope is you will be the same way of him.

Though you love mommy, daddy, Dean, and all of your other family members, Pop Pop (my dad) is your man. And I don't blame you because I'm pretty obsessed with him too. He lives with us now and I'm sure more time that not since he's been here you have been in his arms. In fact, I just went in your room to take a picture of your last sleep as a baby and you weren't there. You're down with Pop Pop in his room, go figure! I'll take it tomorrow and we'll just pretend I took it last night, okay?

Did I mention how independent you are? This isn't mama's favorite thing as telling you 'no' all day can be exhausting but there's nothing like someone who can do for themselves and while your family will always have your back (forever) it is kind of cool to watch you set your own pace sometimes. 

Some fun facts: 

+ You still only have two teeth.

+ You talk a lot but haven't really got the words part down yet. You say dada but not consistently but you can say RAWR at all the right times (we've got a dinosaur obsessed big brother to thank for that).

+ You love to dance and if mama makes up a song (which I do allll the time), you are happy to dance along as if I just dropped the hit of the summer (which right now include Despacito, Wild Thoughts, Humble, and Something Like This).

+ You haven't met a food you didn't like yet but I would say your dad's spaghetti is your favorite.

+ You are the WORST sleeper. You have been sleeping through the night since about 2 months but on the off chance you wake up and need to sleep with us, you are horrible, haha! You move constantly and mama or daddy could wake up with a concussion from all the head butting and kicking in every direction.

+ You love going to church because their are about six women that take turns cuddling you. 

We really do love you Leo. You are better than anything we could have ever prayed for. Happy first year!

Dean, Age 2.5 years.

In our house we have decided that even though Dean looks a lot more like Mike than he does me, his personality is alllll me. He is kind to a fault. Leo can literally hit him with a toy and Dean will still be the one to apologize. His current obsessions are emergency vehicles, a $3 lion from Target (and real ones at the zoo), his iPad, and chicken nuggets. Speaking of which, his nickname of Nugget no longer sticks.  We switched daycares a year ago and it pretty much died in transition and he now mainly answers to: Dean, Dean Dean, Dean the Bean, Bub, Buddy, Poops, and if I'm being honest "Leo! No.. Wait, Mike! ... No, Dean!". 

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Dean Says:

Me: Moving slow at 6:28am to turn on the song he just requested. Dean: You tired mommy? Are you tired? *In his very concerned voice. Future Dean, mommy is always tired. Just assume if you and your brother are up or just fell asleep, I need a nap. 

Dean: *Smashes finger on something while we weren't looking right at him* Mommy! Hurt finger. Pray it! This especially warmed my heart because we have formed the habit of praying over boo boo's when they get hurt. It's always nice when you get those confirmations that things are really sinking in on their level :)

Dean: *Gets super excited about a fire truck that just passed by* Me: What is the fire truck going to do? Dean: Save a kitty. Kitty is in the tree! When ambulances go by he says that they are going to save people. Sorry fire fighters, apparently only paramedics save lives in his 2 year old version of reality. 

Me: I love you Buddy. Dean: Yuvh Yew Tew Mommy. Me: How much? Dean: BIG.

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Other notable things worth mentioning:

  • He's SUPER talkative. Like, it's non stop. 
  • He can count to 10. 
  • He can sing ABC's.
  • Like Imagine Dragons, Believer. 
  • Is very in tune to other peoples emotions and will tell you if they are sad or happy. 
  • Loves watching Dino Dan and can name about 8 different dinosaurs. 
  • Loves chocolate chips. 
  • He picks what he wants to watch in the morning when Mike wakes him up. His favorites are Dino Dan, Fireman Sam, Dinosaur Train.
  • Will randomly ask for Gigi and then expects you to call her. 
  • Gives Grammy good kisses over Facetime. 
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One Thing / 12.

I just agreed to shoot a wedding. Typing those words feels so surreal and yet so exhilarating at the same time. If you've known me for any substantial amount of time, you know that while I have a passion for photography, it's also one of the hardest things for me to commit to. I'm blessed to have a job that helps provide for my family so I've never felt the pressure to make it like you find in most creative's stories. Not that I need a traumatic life event, believe me, I don't. I've been feeling like my journey wasn't as worthy of notation as others well, because, I'm not even sure what my story is. But recently I uncovered I was saying no to my dreams, mostly out of fear. Fear that I wouldn't get published or that I wouldn't live up to what people thought I was. Well, I decided I'm not going to live a life afraid anymore and actually get my actions in line with my words. So I sent a text, to the beautiful couple below that let me capture their engagement, that said something along the line of I'm in, if you're in (it was a very Juno and Vanessa at the end of Juno, moment). I am so excited to step out on faith this year.

Is there something you've been wanting to pursue but you've been holding yourself back? You can let it go and conquer whatever mountain you decide to take down. I believe in you! 

You can see more of my work here.

One Thing / 11.

I have been a hot mess express as of late. A lot of things have changed at work, I recently started Burn Boot Camp so my body aches in ways that I didn't know possible, and I'm just a grouchy puddle of good for nothing. So I figured I'd try and commit to at least one day of blogging a week. No rules. The only expectation is that I stick to that. Writing makes me happy and my heart a little lighter so it's kinda free therapy. Even though, if you know me, you'd probably agree I should go to real therapy and sit on someone's couch, real soon. 

But back to the feelings. Every major life event, I feel, either feels super isolating or tremendously welcoming. In my experience, getting married was like admittance to a club where the booze is flowing and the dj plays your favorite songs all night long. Motherhood on the other hand has been this awkward grey area of in-betweens. You suddenly have open arms welcoming you in the form of faces you love but have never met in real life (hey Insta-mom friends!) but if you're like me, one of the first to have babies in my crew, there's also this weird space of what comes next. 

So to make months worth of anguish (okay that's a bit dramatic) a short story, a few weeks ago I found myself sobbing in my best friends car trying to explain how isolating it felt to be a mom. She had NO idea I was feeling this way because I hate feeling vulnerable and she has the kind of eyes you can't look into with feelings on your chest and not end up crying! But I talked and she listened. And then she talked and I listened. And it really is a tale as old as time (insert bad singing), but people really can't be there for you if you don't invite them in.

It took me waaay to long to learn that. Like, months of ugly crying to Mike long. And now I'm doing better to make sure that I create less space between myself and some of the other mamas in my life. The images below were from this past weekend when we got together with one of my best friends (my god son's mom) and spent a few hours at the park. I'm ashamed to say this is the first time we'd gotten together as a family BUT I'm committed to making it stick. 

So, hug a mama today. Share your feelings. Make plans. Give the love you want to receive.