Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols


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Proud Mommy Moments

This week has been filled with many proud mommy moments. Saturday night, Banks attended his first high school homecoming dance. 

He asked his friend from school to be his date, and she graciously accepted. He asked Adam if he would drive them to dinner and the dance in the Mustang, because “it is way cooler than the van.” Hahaha. So, of course, Adam obliged him, because he loves his son. 

Proud mommy moment #1 was due to Banks being an incredible gentleman. He opened the car door, pulled out her chair at dinner, and I was certainly proud of him. Chivalry shows character, class, and a good upbringing. It never goes out of style. Mary Catherine looked stunning, and I’m thankful that Jesus has placed such quality friends in Banks’ life.

Proud mommy moment #2 came Monday night at Banks’ last JV football game. He was has been a captain at the last two JV games. My number one, both on and off the field, has worked so incredibly hard to improve at the sport of football since last season. He spends every spare moment in the backyard running drills and practicing. He has had an incredible season! His talents have been noticed by not only the JV coaches but also by the varsity coaches. Most importantly, he maintained a humble and grateful attitude, giving all the glory to God, and on top of all that, he maintained all A’s and only 1 B while taking as many honors classes as possible. This kid shows more promise at 14 than most people do at 25.

Proud mommy moment #3 also occurred on Monday. When Weston’s teacher brought him to the car, she told me that there was a new student, and Weston took the kid under his wing and invited him to play and sit beside him. His actions also showed incredible character. I am so thankful that Weston showed love to his neighbor. My heart overflows with love for my manclan, and I feel blessed every single day to be the wife of an amazing man and the mother to the two finest young men in the world. πŸ’—

While I realize that all moms think their children are great, I just know that mine are exceptional. We may not have the most money or the finest home or the fanciest car, but none of those things reflect character. Possessing fine character is due to learned behavior, and the character my children have shown makes us the wealthiest family alive in my eyes. 

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Uneventful Week…Uneventful Post

Oddly enough, it’s been a rather uneventful, slow week for my manclan and me. I went shopping with my mom this morning and told her that I did not really have anything to write about this week, and she said, “write about that.” So, for those of you that actually enjoy my blog, this is a post about nothing in particular. HahahaπŸ˜‚

Monday night, Banks had a JV football game, and he played great! He had two interceptions, some great blocks and tackles, and Houston Academy won! He was extremely proud of himself, as were Adam and I. Some of our friends from church came to watch him play, which made the great plays all the more exciting. Tonight, he will play with the varsity team in Goshen, AL, and then we will do it all over again next week. We love cheering for our Banks and the Raiders!πŸ’™

Weston’s highlight of the week was singing in church on Sunday with his Mission Friends Class. They sang two songs, and he seemed much more interested in the flower arrangement than singing. Thankfully, he pulled it together by the last verse of the first song, and the entire group did a phenomenal job! I love getting to teach this group of kiddos every week! They make me smile!😁

He also learned how to form the letters “L” and “O” at school this week. They use the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, and it is amazing to watch Weston take cars, candy corn, and even his sweet little fingers to form the letters. The more I read about this curriculum, the more I love it. We are very proud of how much Weston is learning every week.

Adam and I have spent the majority of our time away from work, football, carline, church, etc… making a checklist and beginning to pack for our upcoming vacation to Cloudland Canyon State Park. We are very excited to spend fall break as a family in the mountains. I spent nearly every weekend of my childhood camping. So, this is nothing new for me. I’m thrilled to camp and hike with my manclan. One of the many things Adam and I have in common is our love for the outdoors. πŸ•

Well, as I explained earlier, this week was not quite as eventful as usual, but if everything were always the same, this life would become extremely boring. We have enjoyed this calm week and are looking forward to our last free weekend until the middle of November. Come back next week to see what my manclan and I have gotten into.πŸ˜ƒ


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Read, Drive, Play…And Repeat

Gosh, since school has started, we have been busier than usual! Since Banks is playing for both JV and Varsity football, he has games twice/ week as well as practice every afternoon until 6:30 p.m., and workouts two mornings/ week at 6:30 a.m. Nichols Taxi Service is counting down the days until he can drive himself everywhere!!!!

Although we are burning up the roads, we are happy to do it, because our Banks is doing great! First of all can we take a minute and talk about his varsity football picture??? He’s really handsome, and I’m well aware that I’m partial as his mother, but even if I weren’t, I would admit that he’s a good-looking young man! He didn’t think he would get any playing time on varsity, but he’s actually gotten to go in for 8 plays in 3 weeks. On JV, he plays the entire game, and boy did he have a great first game! He even made the local newspaper! He caught a 20 yard pass and ran the ball nearly 70 yards for a touchdown. Adam and I were so proud! You can check out his awesome touchdown as well as the newspaper article below.​

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Banks isn’t the only member of my manclan making big memories! Our church library held a reading competition for all of the children, and Weston was the big winner. He’s always seemed so laid back like his daddy, but once he found out there was a prize to be won, he tapped in to his mom’s competitive nature! For an entire month, we checked out 5-10 books/ visit, and we read and read and read! Weston read a total of 45 books! Adam and I were so proud, but we were also ready for a reading break. We have always been advocates for reading to our children, and we are so thankful that both boys enjoy reading on a regular basis.

All of the kids were so excited to be recognized for their accomplishments. For winning the competition, Weston won a $25 gift card to Lifeway, some bookmarks, a certificate, stickers, and some candy. That’s a pretty great prize package for a three year old! Of course, he ate all the candy in one sitting, and I’ve found stickers EVERYWHERE! πŸ“š 

He was so excited to use his “credit card”. He bought himself a Bible, which he was thrilled to be able to carry to church Sunday morning, a sticker book (no, none of the stickers he won went in the book. He preferred to stick them on furniture and wallsπŸ˜‰.), and in classic Nichols boy style, a Veggie Tales bat and ball. It’s always ball season at our house!⚾️

So, although we’ve been extremely busy lately, Adam and I couldn’t be more proud of our boys. They are both incredible, and we are the blessed ones to be their parents. Bring on the craziness! It makes parenthood FUN! 


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New Beginnings

First off, allow me to apologize for my brief hiatus. I have been terribly sick for two weeks. I finally feel human again. As all of you moms know, life doesn’t stop simply because you aren’t feeling well. There’s still a manclan to be fed, laundry to be done, a house to be cleaned, and bills to be paid. Did I mention that it was also time to start back to school???? The uniforms needed to be ordered, school supplies purchased, haircuts, etc… Needless to say, being sick did not fit into my schedule.

This year didn’t merely consist of getting Banks ready to go back to school, but Weston would also be starting school. Both boys are marking milestones this year. Weston, as he begins his journey at Houston Academy in the 3P program, and Banks, as he begins high school at Houston Academy in the 9th grade.


The first day, as every day, began with prayers for both of my boys. I prayed that they would both be light in the darkness, do what is right, and basically, have a great year. I thanked the Lord for such intelligent and kind children. As we sat at breakfast, Weston could hardly eat due to his excitement. Banks was his usual cool, calm, and collected self. Since he had worked all summer, we didn’t have any issues with waking up early, and thankfully he looks forward to going to school each year.


Both boys willingly gave me a smile for the annual first day of school picture, and then we were off. As I dropped Banks off in front of the high school building, I began to have tears in my eyes, but I knew I had to hold it together in order to avoid sending Weston into a major meltdown before his first day. On the first day, they allow parents to walk pre-schoolers to their classroom. So, I parked the van, and as I reached for Weston’s hand, he told me, “I don’t want to hold your hand, mom. I want to walk all by myself.” 😭 So, instead of allowing him to see my broken heart, I told him how proud I was of him for being such a big boy. I walked alongside of him to his classroom, and I said goodbye and left.


He was not thrilled that I wanted yet another picture of him and his teacher, Mrs. O’Connor. When I picked him up, he couldn’t quit talking about all the great friends he had made, the story they read, but most importantly, the playground! He was so excited! 

After Banks finished school, he had football practice. So, it was nearly 7pm before I heard about his first day. He too had a great day. He told me about all of his teachers, the expectations for each class, and of course, we talked about football practice. He is playing on both the JV and Varsity teams this year, which he is overjoyed about, and Adam and I are extremely proud of all the dedication and hard work he has put in to accomplish such a feat. A freshman playing varsity requires hard work, talent, and a personal invite from the varsity coach. His first varsity game is this Friday night. We can’t wait! Go Raiders!


The back to school excitement has continued throughout the week. Weston and I spent the majority of yesterday morning on his first homework assignment. He had to make a “Me doll”. It was a fun project, and he was excellent at painting and using the glue stick. I did all of the cutting, but the quality time together was priceless. Banks has already had two quizzes, and today is only the third day, but he seemed confident in the material, which was over the three books he had to read for summer reading. 

The new beginnings really hit home this morning, as I went into Weston’s room to wake him up, he was already completely dressed including his socks and shoes. As I walked by the bathroom, Banks was shaving his face. Those same tears that filled my eyes two days ago were coming back. After Weston hopped right out of the van in car line this morning, the tears began to flow. I prayed and asked God to take care of my boys, and I decided that I could handle this one of two ways. I could cry and be sad that my babies aren’t babies anymore, or I could be thankful that I have such intelligent, independent children that love God and love others. My daddy offered me some great advice this morning as he reminded me that this is all just part of the process moving on from one chapter to the other. So, as for these new beginnings, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for an incredible school like Houston Academy. I’m thankful that no matter what, our boys will always be our children, and we will always be there for them when they need us, and I’m thankful for the village of family and friends that have helped mold and make Banks and Weston into the wonderful young men that they are. Here’s to another fantastic school year!


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Family, Food, Freedom, and FUN

After taking a week off from blogging in order to volunteer my free time to cooking food and serving over 150 youth and chaperones at our church last week, I was in desperate need of some  relaxing, family time at the beach. 

My parents have a vacation home at Baypoint in Panama City, FL. They just moved in March, so this was our first visit. My brother and his girlfriend drove down, my sister was there, and obviously my parents were there too. It was fabulous! The photo above is the view from their living room. My dad had us all stop what we were doing to watch the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen, and it was breathtaking! 
Saturday was a beautiful day on the Gulf of Mexico! The sugary white sand was so soft and relaxing, and the water was perfectly cool and clear. We set up camp in front of Schooners, which has been labeled “the last local beach club.” 

Adam, Weston, and Aunt Hope built the most amazing sandcastle of all time! Weston also enjoyed jumping the waves with mommy and daddy and picking up sea shells along the beach. My mom, Ashley, Jud, Banks, and I all gave paddle boarding a shot. My mom is extremely fit for 60 years old. She teaches yoga for goodness sake. About a month ago, she decided to buy a YOLO board, and I’m so glad she did! It was absolutely the worst day to try this for the first time due to the number of people in the ocean as well as the number of boats and jet skis passing by, but we all had a blast trying this new sport. I promise it is NOT as easy as it looks. We all were able to get up to at least our knees on the board, but Banks was practically a prodigy. He did awesome! I can’t wait to try it again. I wish we had more photos of us trying it.

After spending all day on the beach, we had a laughter-filled evening grilling burgers and playing cards. Adam and I played my dad and Jud in a game of spades, and Adam and I got slaughtered! I love my husband with every ounce of my being, but there isn’t one competitive bone in his body, but we surely did laugh….A LOT!!!! Banks dominated Aunt Hope in a few games of Skip- Bo, my mom just watched, and Aunt Ashley and Weston enjoyed snuggle time and went to bed early.

Sunday was my baby brother’s 33rd birthday, and I’m so thankful we were able to be together to celebrate. My manclan and I spent some of the morning taking family photos outside the condo in front of the bay. While some may view my obsession with family photos as lame, they mean the world to me. I’m so thankful for my manclan and want to document every memory that I possibly can.

I’m so thankful for wonderful weekends like this one, and I can’t wait until Christmas because I’m sure that will be the next time we are all able to get together again. My boys loved getting to spend time with their TG, Pops, Aunt Ash, and Uncle Jud. No matter the time or distance between us, through technology, we are able to talk to one another on a regular basis. We all enjoyed getting to meet Hope, and she definitely has my stamp of approval! She was a perfect fit! As I was praying Sunday morning, I was thinking about all those grains of sand that slipped between my toes on the beach, and I was thinking of God’s love for me. How incredible to have a God that loves me more than all the grains of sand on all the seashores. I know that my family loves me and my manclan pretty close to that much, and it’s all such a blessing. Thanks, mom and dad, for an amazing weekend, and a huge happy birthday to my brother, and a very humble thank you to all of our forefathers that risked it all to give us this incredible country! 


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Growing, Growing, and Gone

I remember Banks’ very first day of Kindergarten. He wouldn’t let me walk in with him. He’s always been very independent. (I wonder where he gets that from????). As I sat through his eighth grade academic awards, the realization hit me that next Thursday at noon, my oldest child will be in high school! 

He’s such a Godly, intelligent, athletic, and handsome young man. He respects others, and he still gives me hugs and tells me that he loves me. He’s kind-hearted, and he is hilariously witty! A few Sundays ago, I was praying at the altar, and he came down, put his arm around me, and prayed with me. I’m so excited for his future, and I’m so incredibly proud of my Banks. 

There are no participation trophies handed out at Houston Academy. (Thank Goodness!) Only the parents whose children are receiving academic recognition are invited to awards day. When the invitation comes in the mail, you are automatically filled with admiration for your child. They don’t recognize honor roll students, because, honestly, it’s expected at HA. Banks was recognized for maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA through both 7th and 8th grade, and he was recognized for his outstanding performance on the National Latin Exam. He finished in the 90th percentile.
Needless to say, Adam and I were beyond proud. He achieved all of this while also playing two sports, working out every afternoon, being active in his youth group, and even working on the weekends this spring. Being intelligent is definitely a gift, but to be both intelligent and well-rounded, WOW!

Now, I realize that this seems like a sappy mom who thinks her child is better than everyone else’s child, but no one sees Banks from my perspective. He and I were all one another had for a long time, and we’ve been through A LOT together. He’s just a beautiful miracle. I’m in awe of how God used me to produce such greatness. Adam and I are extremely blessed to be his parents. 

Of course, we feel the exact same way about Weston, and I look forward to this time next year when I’m writing about how much he learned in preschool at Houston Academy, but today, I just felt the need to brag on Banks.
Like Weston, Banks once held my hand and depended on me to bathe and dress him, but he’s grown now. He’s taller than me. He has a chiseled physique, and all the baby fat is gone. He’s very concerned with his appearance and how he smells and what he wears. The realization that he will be gone in a few short years makes my eyes fill up with tears. The tears aren’t because I’m sad. They are tears of pride, because I know that he’s going to be just fine, and I know that no matter how much bigger he gets, he will never be too big to hug his mommy.πŸ’—


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Super Bowl, Sensational Youth, and Brisket

Well, our first gathering utilizing our outdoor television was a success! We invited all of the youth and college kids from our church to watch the Super Bowl. 

    
   The game was excellent as the always humble Peyton Manning and the Broncos walked away with the well-deserved win. While the football was excellent, the group gathered in our home was far better! If you provide food, youth will come! They love to eat, and we love to open our home to this amazing group of young people. So often in churches today, the congregation loses sight of the responsibility we have to train these kids and show them love. Sadly, they are viewed as loud, a disruption, a hindrance, and disrespectful. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my experiences with young people, they are full of excellent ideas, eager to help, energetic, and most importantly, they long to be loved and want to learn from us. There are many things we can learn from them as well.
During the halftime show, we gathered in the living room and sang praise choruses and had an excellent time of devotion led by our youth pastor. He spoke about the endurance and dedication that goes into preparing for a game of this magnitude, but in the end, our lives would not be any different on Monday due to which team won or lost, but knowing and having a relationship with God is life-changing. It changes how you approach trials, how you live everyday, and most importantly, it changes your eternity! It was an absolute blast, and I hope we can host this event for many more years to come.

   
 Just to brag on my husband a minute, we had told the kids to bring desserts or drinks, and we would provide the meal. Well, we considered a few different meal options, but Adam really wanted to use our smoker. So we purchased a brisket, and he smoked it for approximately 8 hours at about 150-200 degrees. We came home from church Sunday, and the entire neighborhood smelled absolutely amazing! After allowing it to rest for an hour, it was so tender, flavorful, and juicy. It was awesome! We had dinner rolls, and the kids made brisket sliders served with chips, dip, and a slough of other delicious treats. We will definitely be smoking another brisket sometime soon.

I hope you all have an amazing week and a happy Valentine’s Day. Next week I will share with you all how we celebrated this great day of love! Thanks for reading!