A Lot About Us

A Lot About Us

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We are the Caldwells. Justin, Nicole, our little guys, Grayson, Baylor, and Rowan, and our angel daughters, Faith and Avery.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

OUR FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week and enjoying the last few weeks of summer before schools and Fall routines pick back up. We have started school early this year (as many of your know from my previous post). The week has gone very well so far and the boys are settling into a nice routine. I am sure that routine will shift all around when the new baby arrives, but we are settling in for now. To kick off the school year the boys have decided to do a community service project.

One of the first verses our children learn in our home is Mark 12:30-31,

30'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

In an effort to love on our neighbors the boys decided they wanted to donate school supplies to some of the students at a school near our home. There is a very large population of students in this school that are unable to buy the basic necessities for their school year (paper, pencils, etc.). Since we were kicking off the school year with a service project, I thought it was a great idea for that project to be related to education. Obviously each boy insisted that they should buy backpacks and that is where we realized we could use some help.

We are reaching out to friends and family for help purchasing Cinch Sacs through Thirty-One. These bags are very popular at the elementary level and are excellent quality for the price. A donation of $26.00 will cover the purchase of one bag.

100% of my commission (I am a Thirty-One Consultant) on the sale of the bags will be used to purchase the school supplies to fill them. In addition each of our children have pulled a portion of their piggy bank savings to purchase school supplies to fill the bags.

It is our hope that we can deliver a ton of supply filled Cinch Sacs to the school the day before school starts for teachers and counselors to distribute to the students with the greatest need.

To join our efforts we simply need your donation no later than 8/14. Contact me if you would like to help. I can be reached by e-mail (nicolerc03 "at" gmail "dot" com).

Thank you for your help as we work to love our neighbors.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CAN IT BE?!?!?!

Can it really be time for school? This summer has been amazing. Justin and I were able to work out a fantastic schedule that kept me home every day with the exception of Friday afternoons when he could be here. On Friday afternoons and a few evenings a week I have been able to see some of my students. It was worked out well because the professional side of me can't neglect their needs, but at the same time I am a mom first. It can get tricky to balance that. Justin's company does a wonderful thing called summer hours where he works longer Monday through Thursday and is home by lunch on Friday. It has been wonderful to be able to be home more consistently and to know when I am away, the boys are with Justin.

We have spent our summer swimming, playing outside, going to movies, eating ice cream, and just enjoying the routine of summer. You know we didn't just pull an all out free for all. I am too scheduled for that. We did have a routine, but it has been a wonderful easy routine. I am loving it.

Scattered throughout summer I have sat down here and there to order curriculum, register for Classical Conversations, and research what school will look like for us next year. Unlike last year when the littlest guys were in preschool and Grayson attended a morning program, everyone is coming home this year. We are full on home schooling for the first time. I don't feel like a newbie since we completed Kindergarten last year, but I also do feel new at this since we are diving into a whole new routine. First, we are adding Classical Conversations. It is something I looked at doing from the very moment we considered homeschooling. I like the idea of a community of learners and I love the Classical model. Secondly, we will have everyone home. This means that I am not only responsible for a first grader, but I also have a 2 and 4 year old to keep entertained. Additionally, said 4-year old needs to learn letters and numbers. Did I mention that we will be adding a newborn to the mix in 3 weeks (OR LESS!) and I still plan to work at the school two days per week. Does your chest start to feel tight reading all of that? Mine does!

So back to my point about planning. As I was doing some school organizing and oogling over my new curriculum that had been delivered (yes I am a complete dork that really loves the feel and smell of new books) it hit me that I need to get moving on this. I was reading blogs and FB posts about all of the planning and organizing other moms had completed and I started to feel like I was failing before even getting started. I had a minor freak out moment, that was fortunately followed by encouragement from some sweet seasoned homeschoolers who convinced me that I should ease into this and not freak myself out. So, I sat down and started planning.

I quickly made the decision that we should not start as late as we did last year. Trust me, I could do summer for another two or three months. I have really loved the lack of a more pressing schedule. Last year we started school at the end of August and finished by Memorial Day. It was awesome! The reality is, we have a baby coming and I know that means that we are going to have a period of adjustment. I feel like to ensure we don't fall too far behind during our baby adjustment period, we need to get a head start. Classical Conversations will not start until after Labor day, but in addition to that work we have reading, spelling, and math that we can get started on.

So I have gotten serious about getting our plans together. We are scheduled to have our first day of school next Monday (8/4). That may give us two full weeks to sort out our routine before baby arrives and a full month to make adjustments before our new sitter begins in September. She will be here on the two days I work and will oversee the work while I am not here.

I am getting excited! I am looking forward to the work we are planning, but trying to keep my head on straight and realize that I will need to give myself some grace as we get started. My schedule will need adjusting, the days may not work as they are presently planned, and the baby will likely turn it all upside down. I have prayed over that the most. I want this to be a positive experience from the beginning for my boys. They have finally gotten used to being at home all together and I don't want to place unnecessary stress on how they view school at home. I must remember to ease into this.

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I was up for about four hours during the middle of the night. I prayed, I read in my devotional, I got on Facebook. There I saw a link to a post at one of my favorite home school bloggers. I'm not going to lie. Reading this blog often stresses me out. Not because the women who writes it conveys the idea that they get it all perfect all the time (in fact it is just the opposite), but because her organization makes me a little jealous and I can't wait to be in a place where I am more familiar with what we are beginning. It stresses me out a little but I love it just the same. The link was to a post about easing into the school year. It was about doing a tapered start. It was just what I needed to read. I needed to know that this mom was easing into things and planning to adjust here and there. In all her experience and preparedness, she is still planning to ease into things. Additionally I learned she has three boys and a newborn. The newborn is one of her main reasons for a tapered start. I felt instant relief and motivation. It can be done!

So, we plan to begin our "tapered start" on Monday. I am such a dork that I can hardly wait. Well, except for that I really need to get things ready. Also, if you are home schooling (you likely already read her blog because I feel like I am always the last to find anything) please check out this post on "Half-a-hundred Acre Wood's" tapered start.

http://www.halfahundredacrewood.com/2014/07/curriculum-schedule-classical-conversations-at-home.html#more

Friday, July 18, 2014

MY 15 MINUTES

I was so excited yesterday when a friend contacted me and asked if she could share one of my family recipes on her blog. First because I am excited anytime someone enjoys something I have prepared enough to ask for the recipe and share it with others. Second because she has a lot of readers and well who doesn't like to be a little famous for a day on a friends blog. How fun!!!!

She asked if she could reference my blog. I agreed but realized the craziness of summer had once again pushed blogging to the back burner. I couldn't have people linking over without a proper greeting! So if you are visiting from Peanut Butter Hair's blog space, Hi and welcome to my little corner of the web.

To be real honest, with a fourth baby on the way in a MONTH, I wanted to focus on spending lots of time with my kiddos this summer. I have also been preparing for a very different homeschool year next year, working a little, and getting into a new business venture with Thirty-One. It was been wild. I wouldn't have it any other way.

There has been lots to post about. We have had baptisms, trips to the ER, birthdays, and so much more. For each moment of excitement I have started a post, made some notes, and saved it for later. Sometimes it was because there was a play date or pool time calling, sometimes because I was rushing out to see some of my students for summer sessions, and sometimes because it was the end of the day and I was simply too exhausted to put thoughts down that made sense (Seriously, this building a human business gets more exhausting each time!).

So for now I am back on the wagon. I thrilled to be part of a sweet and dear friends posting for a day. If you are visiting, please stick around if you want to get to know us a little better. If you are a regular reader (the few I have) please go over and check out my sweet friend and her family at

http://www.peanutbutterhair.com/1/post/2014/07/the-best-breakfast-recipe-ever.html

She is seriously hilarious and I hear there is a really good recipe over there today. ;-)

Also, if you wanna help me figure out why the link feature never works on my blog please do comment. It is so annoying!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MAY-THE WILD RIDE

I can't be the only mom out there that feels like May is just a really tough month. This May has been especially wild. We started out May in Jamaica. No, I am not complaining about that one bit. Justin and I went to be there to see my sister and her long-time sweetie tie the knot. It was a beautiful wedding and amazing trip. Too short, but amazing. What I should have done was used that trip to prepare mentally for the rest of May. I did not. Sure, we relaxed and spent time enjoying one another without the boys around, but the reality of May wasn't on my radar.

The reality of May hit when I got back and looked on the calendar. The reality was driven home a little more when our regular sitter looked at the calendar on her first day back and said, "You guys have a lot going on!" Right when we got back was the day I dread most of the year (see previous post) and then we went full swing into chaos. May is so odd when you have kids. You have one foot in summer and one foot lingering on those final steps of the school year. There are summer sports beginning, year round sports (for us gymnastics for B)ending, Wednesday night church activities wrapping up, summer plans being made, end of year programs, Mother's Day activities, and more! This year we also worked hard to make sure that Grayson finished homeschooling Kindergarten at the same time he finished his pre-K morning program. I wanted the end of the year to be the END for him. I don't know why that was so important, but it was. To top it all off there is the odd couple of weeks at the end of May when all regular day time programs for the boys have ceased, but the school where I work is not out yet. It is insane and I don't do well with that.

Let me tell you mamas, by May I basically stink at everything. For the final two (if I am being honest 4 or 6) weeks of school Grayson had no backpack. His ripped. It was not worth it to me to sew it back together for only a few weeks. There was no time for that. Rowan and Baylor went to their morning program most days without their bags. I had them by the door, or in the car, or on the floor but COULD NOT remember to take them in with the boys. I try to make sure I am that mom that makes life as easy on those serving my children as possible. I try to keep all important dates on my calendar, I try to always pack and take the things they are supposed to have, I pay attention to classroom needs and requests so that we can do our part. I participate, usually. By May, I stink!!! I am just done! Then the "Done" version of me tries to do end of year teacher gifts, parties, programs, and everything else. It isn't pretty. This year I made a decision early in May that I would not get frustrated with it all and I would take the chaos one day at a time even if it wasn't pretty. I promised myself I would go with the flow and take one day at a time.

There were several times over the last few weeks that I started to get discouraged. There were moments when I forgot the promise I made to myself and I just wanted to go to bed and wake up on June 1st. It seemed like every time the calendar would start to get the best of me I would find myself rushing half-crazed into seated at one of these programs watching one of my little guys show their stuff and it would make all the rush as chaos of this time of year a little less major. Those moments are so precious. Sure it has been busy, we are in the final week and I can finally start to feel the ease of summer creeping in. I look back and May has been FULL of some amazing moments. I am glad that I didn't let the calendar or my dislike of chaos take those moments from me. So mamas with a crazy May, hold tight. The end is in sight. We are almost there. Remember these programs and events are so special. Take a minute to forget all the chaos and enjoy them. Maybe if we can do that we won't have to spend half of June recovering.

Friday, May 9, 2014

TODAY

This is about to be real honest. If you can't handle it, move on.

I just don't like this day. I dread it all year. I hate that I have a true "Worst Day Ever". Anytime I am having a bad day and start to say to myself for a fleeting moment (as most of us do), "This is the worst day", I am stopped dead in my tracks with the realization that whatever I am dealing with doesn't even compare to my true worst day. I hate that every year I feel like all the emotions from that day resurface and are just as raw and painful as they were the day it all happened. I also hate that this day most often falls real close to Mother's Day making me dread Mother's Day every year. Today is the five year anniversary of my worst day ever. On Mother's Day five years ago I left Duke hospital without my babies.

On top of the loss and grief that resurface, this days brings a whole mess of Mommy guilt. How in the world can a mother dread the birthday of her daughters? I do. I dread it. I know that it is their birthday and a day to be thankful for their time with us, although way too short in my opinion. I am thankful for them. I am thankful for their birthday, but how can I also be thankful and celebrate the day their life ended. Since it all happened on the same day I just find a real hard time with celebrating this day. There is a part of me that wants to make a big deal and do something special today, but the grief makes all of that so overwhelming. I would genuinely like to stay in bed and just skip this day, but at the same time I feel horribly guilty for not making more of an effort to celebrate them.

We don't skip it. Life goes on and there is work and activities planned every year on this day. We have to carry on and so we do. Today I worked. After I worked I spent some time with Grayson at a wonderful Mother's Day lunch that his school hosted. He wrote some very sweet things about me and all three boys showered me with all kinds of handmade gifts. It was fun. We, the boys and I, went to pick out new flowers for the cemetery. We do that every year on this day and they look forward to it. We rested. We went to the park with our small group and the moms had Starbucks and small talk. We ordered pizza for dinner because that is fun and easy. We planned to make pink cupcakes with pick icing and pink sprinkles to celebrate. I didn't have enough cupcake liners, so we will save that for tomorrow. Some day in the next couple of weeks we will go to the cemetery to replace the flowers. It was a day and to our boys probably much like any other day in our house (minus the flower shopping). For me it wasn't like any other day. Today is the day that I wear glasses because by 8 am I have cried enough to dry out my contacts and ruin them for the day. Today is the day that tears fall when I least expect them and people look over at me wondering why that weird lady is crying while she pays for pizza. Today is the day that it bothers me most when people forget but at the same time I don't want to talk about it. Yes, I realize that is an unfair expectation. I forget the birthdays of the living all the time. I certainly shouldn't expect everyone to remember today. I don't expect everyone to remember but knowing people forget makes me cry anyway. Tonight after everyone else in asleep I will get out their box. It is the box that holds their pictures, blankets, hats, and the only things we have of them. We keep the hats in plastic bags and I am terrified that after five years their smell may be gone when I open them. I will hold the things briefly and close it up again until next year or until one of the boys ask to see what is inside again. Then I will wake up tomorrow and this day will have passed.

Loss doesn't get easier. The hole left from the loss of a child or children never goes away and it doesn't really get easier. People say that time heals. People say that it gets easier. People lie. That just isn't the truth. What is true is that the one true God comforts and lifts you up out of the despair. It is only by His power that I can rise above the pain that is still very much there and I don't imagine will ever get easier. He gives me the strength and courage to carry on and I truly believe that out of his love and compassion for our heartache he miraculously makes the pain not so close to the surface every day. That is how I smile. That is how I don't cry every single day. That is how I can talk about my daughters without tears on any other day except today. That is how I carry on and enjoy life and all of its blessings. It is His miracle. His gift to me. Also the truth in my heart of an eternity in Heaven that I will spend with my daughters rejoicing at the feet of our Lord.

It isn't easier. Today stinks. The hurt and grief come all the way back to the surface on this day. I have finally decided it is okay that I don't like this day.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ENCOURAGMENT

I can't really tell you when I met my friend J for this first time. We were introduced by one of my dearest friends, B. B and I have been friends since college. She is one of those people that I know God carefully knit into my life. Without her, I am not sure who I would be today. Just as carefully as God knit B into my life, he also carefully orchestrated my introduction to many of B's friends and family members. Many of them have become a very valuable part of my walk through this life. These women and men encourage me and point me to the Lord, which is something very precious and often hard to find in this world.

J is one of those people. As a mother of eight, wife, believer, and friend she is often building up other women and encouraging them. Her friendship is so precious to me. Titus is one of my top favorite books of the Bible. One of my favorite things about Titus is the instruction it gives for the women of the church. I specifically have Titus 2:3-5 underlined.

3 "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

J lives out this scripture and she has encouraged me on more occasions than I can count by doing what God has instructed in Titus. She is not older than me, but you don't have to be older in age to live out this verse the way J does.

Yesterday I was having a rough one. Actually the last couple of weeks have been challenging. We have been hit with the stomach virus and this time mommy was not excluded. This week my younger two were on Spring break from the morning program they attend so that I can work part-time. Lots of family and friends dove in to help, but it still made for a complicated week logistically. Yesterday I was unable to work due to childcare complications and decided to spend the day at home getting the house cleaned up from two weeks of a great deal of neglect. My kids were crazy! There was lots of whining, lots of clinginess, and it seemed like every time I started to make a little headway on a task someone would need something. I was praying through it all for patience, kindness, and understanding to prevail since it was taking me 4 house JUST TO GET THE KITCHEN CLEANED UP!!!

I sat down for a break and decided to catch up on some blog reading. God is so good. Just before I sat down, He prompted J's heart to finish a post that I feel like she was led to write just for me. I read it and I was encouraged. It built me up. It reminded me I was not alone and most importantly it reminded me that I am able.

With her permission I will share the link to her post here, I am sure someone reading needs to hear her words just like I did.

http://www.themakingofmom.blogspot.com/2014/04/you-are-able-you-are-enough.html

For some reason I could not get the link to work, so just cut and paste.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ABOUT A BOY

After the loss of our twins (both girls) there was an ache in my heart for a daughter. I had spent right around 5 months planning to have twins and had known for several weeks that they would be girls when they were born too soon and went quickly to Heaven. Following that loss I knew we would have more children right away. I had always wanted four children and planned to stick with that for as long as it was also what we felt God leading us to do.

Fast forward a few years and we are well on our way to four kids with our three boys. I definitely still had a desire in my heart for a daughter and often found myself feeling jealous when a friend would find out she was expecting a girl. There were some ugly moments, I'm not gonna lie. There were moments where I had to just go to God and pray that he heal my heart because I knew those feelings stemmed from my loss and I didn't like feeling that way. I was genuinely happy for my friends, but the jealousy was real.

This pregnancy wasn't a complete surprise, but Justin and I were definitely still praying about the possibility of a fourth child, adoption, foster care, and a whole host of other things when I found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled and a little part of me began to hope for a girl. I could imagine bows, and ballet slippers, mother/daughter outings, and all things pink. I would look at girl nurseries and clothes in my spare time and since this pregnancy was COMPLETELY different than any of my previous I thought for a time this baby might be a girl. We even had a girl name all ready and picked out. She was to be "Alice Emory".

About three weeks ago all of those feelings began to change. Since the beginning of this pregnancy I have prayed daily that God protect this little one, keep myself and the baby healthy and strong, and that He would prepare me to be the mother he or she needs. It was during those prayers that my feelings about our 4th child began to change. The visions in my mind about what our family would look like in 2, 5, 10 years seemed right with four boys instead of three boys and a girl. I could no longer find that longing in my heart to have another daughter added to our family. A contentment in my heart developed with the idea of only boys in our home. It wasn't something I was doing in an effort to prepare for "not getting a girl", I could feel a difference in my heart. It was most definitely not something I was doing but with certainty God was moving in my heart.

I found myself turning to specific scripture during my quiet time (1st Corinthians, Titus, 1st and 2nd Timothy). I couldn't get enough of the Word and what it had to say about godly men. I found myself praying constantly that God would make me a better mother for my little men. The burden grew greater in my heart to raise leaders, protectors, prophets, and real men. The idea of a daughter was removed so completely from my heart and mind that it even showed up in the small worldly things. I would browse Pinterest and only the boys things appealed to me. When I strolled through the baby section at Target, I found myself drawn to the boy stuff. It was unreal and I noticed the change. Then a couple of nights before our ultrasound I was browsing online for nursery ideas. I was in the section for boys and ran across a sign that said "God can only make men from little boys" and I burst into tears. I knew at that moment that this baby would be a boy. I knew that God had destined for me in His plan to raise four boys into men that will serve Him. I knew it and I was thrilled with the idea.

When we found out for certain that this baby was going to be a boy, I was over the moon with joy. There wasn't one ounce of disappointment or grief over not having a girl. There is a contentment in my heart. I have been through a period of growth and pruning and God has revealed to me that I was created to be a mother of boys. Yes, I still think every day of my daughters in Heaven, but it wasn't in His plan for me to raise them. I was made for this!!! There is nothing like the peace of knowing you are doing exactly what you were created to do.

We have had a whole lot of different reactions when we tell people this baby is a boy. Most people are excited for us and offer congratulations, but we have received a lot of other comments as well. People can say the most ridiculous things. We get the typical, "Wow! That is a lot of boys!" or "Well will you keep trying for the girl?" Many (yes as in more than a couple) have actually responded, "Oh, I'm sorry." and look at me as if I have lost something dear. Most of the time I just smile and say, "We are really excited." Every time I walk away from those not so nice comments and wish I could share this story. I wish I could tell them about how I am amazed at the opportunity God has given us and how He prepared my heart to have a fourth boy. I don't, but I often walk away wishing I did.

So, I wanted to share that story here in our space about our family. I want it here for anyone who reads to know how thrilled we are. I want it here so I can look back at it in the coming years when our house full of four amazing boys gets to be loud, messy, and busy. I also wanted it here so that I have it documented just how overjoyed we are to welcome a fourth son. This may be our last baby (unless God changes our hearts about that too) and when I picture growing old with four sons I can hardly keep the tears of joy from spilling over. God is so good.