Self-indulgent post alert! There will be a lot of pictures of two very sweet, but clueless people.

Surviving the 7 Year Itch | westofgrey.com

When Alan and I met, over ten years ago, we were both giving up. We had both returned from a vacation in which we seriously considered packing up and getting a fresh start elsewhere. God bless our mothers, who both advised us to go back and try for a few months more. We met two weeks after that wise advice.

I was singing in a band that needed a last minute percussionist. A very grinny Alan filled in and spent the whole weekend of rehearsal and performance sitting behind me, staring at my butt. And it was apparently love at first sight. We were officially a couple eleven days later.

2014-06-17_0001The weekend we met, he showed me his project for his first photography class and I critiqued. Little did we know that we would spend a lifetime, and owning multiple businesses, doing that exact thing. Our relationship, on the whole, was calm, contented, and so natural. This was lesson #1: Real love does not revolve around roller coaster emotions. When it’s right, it’s right. There will be some butterflies, but more than that, there should be a sense of center and balance to it.

2014-06-17_00022014-06-17_0003We were married a little more than two years later. It was not a perfect day, but it was beautiful. Family, friends, music and laughter. After photographing so many weddings, I learned lesson #2: Don’t be so obsessed about perfection, on the day of the wedding and every day after. It won’t happen. As any writer will tell you, it’s the imperfections that are interesting. THEY make the story. Focus on what makes your day and your relationship unique and quirky and hold onto it. I don’t remember much about the day except the funny things like my bridesmaids being sewn into their dresses and orchestrating the bridal march too well so that no one stopped crying until halfway through the ceremony. Same with marriage. Perfection glosses over in memory. Be ok with that. 2014-06-17_0004Early marriage, our first home, vacations. Ah, so very young and free…Lesson #3: Cherish the now. It won’t last. It is so tempting to be longing for the next chapter. But every chapter has its high points. This part was about just learning to be us and doing as we wished when we wished it. We had no idea what a blessing that was until it was no longer an option. 2014-06-17_0005We worked and tortured ourselves over the success of our business and the reputation that was supposed to come along with it. So many joys, fights, and late night sessions wrapped up in MAKING the dream happen. Guess what? It didn’t. Lesson #4: Your first dream may not be the best dream. If you believe in the big God we do, you have to be ok with letting go when it is time. We have already starting reaping the fruits of starting over and have so many more yet to see.2014-06-17_0006As anyone who knows us will tell you, it was not hard to find the photos to go in this blog post, because they are nearly all of those in existence containing the two of us. We are AWFUL at getting in front of the camera, even to show that a certain occasion or trip ever happened. And the fact that I happen to be one of the least photogenic people who has ever lived does not help. But that leads to Lesson #5: Document your life. Show that you lived it. Taking pictures of your kids is not enough. As I was putting these together, I was narrating our story to my three-year-old  who was incredulous that whole sections of our life happened before she even existed. But we should have and still need to work on doing it more.2014-06-17_0007By this point, I was weathering a thyroid disease which was playing games with my appearance, pregnant (also wreaking havoc on the appearance) and we were learning the downside of being grownups – namely, mortgage payments and long-term responsibility. We were kind of teetering between “Of course, we’re still young and cool and can stay up past eleven!” and “Let’s finish this NPR episode and go to bed. On second thought, let’s go to bed.” Lesson #6: Life is full of transition. Try not to go backward. You may not have envisioned yourself as someone of that age or lifestyle or socioeconomic standing, but you just might be that person anyway. Just be the best version of that person possible. 2014-06-17_0008Once Margot, and now Oliver entered our lives, we realized that our lives are not actually our own after all. On the one hand, that means that we now revolve around nap times, babysitters, and future planning. On the other hand, it is a commission to mold two new lives. There is no bigger priority nor greater calling. The last three years have been a whirlwind of new experiences – good, bad and ugly. But never boring. 2014-06-17_00092014-06-17_00102014-06-17_0011This bring us to now. 8 years married, two children. Margot is three and daily makes us wonder why we ever procreated and allowed our most annoying traits to manifest in our offspring. And then she dances and sends her wild curls bouncing and bobbing. Oliver showed his challenges at only five-weeks-old. Who knows what his future holds and what ugly challenges will be around every corner? But he is the sweetest, cuddliest soul who ever lived. I can easily see him being the embodiment of all things good and vulnerable. And who can resent that? Our children taught us Lesson #7: Every struggle brings with it some amount of joy. It may not be immediate. It may not be in equal parts. But there is grace for those that choose to live faithfully. And there is greater joy to come.View More: http://caressarogers.pass.us/darmodyWe joked with each other a year ago that if we could get through the seven-year itch, we would make it until the end of our 50-year contract. (This was our original deal when we got married. After 50 years, we have the option to renegotiate our marriage. I’m getting a pool boy.) It’s been itchy, alright. But we’re still scratching…ok, I don’t like that metaphor anymore. Let’s move on. Year eight will prove to be an interesting one. But we’ll still be together. Still fighting, learning and trying not to kill each other. And that’s really what counts, isn’t it?View More: http://caressarogers.pass.us/darmodyHappy anniversary, my love. Only 42 more to go.

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  • AlexaJune 18, 2014 - 12:52 pm

    “Margot is three and daily makes us wonder why we ever procreated and allowed our most annoying traits to manifest in our offspring.” LOL! So true.ReplyCancel

  • Erin MayerJune 18, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    Awesome post!!! Love all the pictures.ReplyCancel

  • ValJune 18, 2014 - 3:44 pm

    I love the way you write! Thanks for sharing your life with us.ReplyCancel

  • Jaclyn PruehsJune 18, 2014 - 5:27 pm

    Yeah, you wrote a pretty awesome blog post here. Pretty awesome!! ReplyCancel

  • Steve DarmodyJune 18, 2014 - 6:36 pm

    No longer our children, you two are. But mentors, examples and friends. We love you! Wonderful thoughts to ponder and blend into one’s life. Thank you. Yoda Steve.ReplyCancel

  • Ep LairJune 19, 2014 - 3:09 am

    Well said!
    ReplyCancel

  • Kisha RenattaJune 19, 2014 - 3:43 am

    Love it! ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Ann CobleJune 22, 2014 - 12:55 am

    You are AMAZING…your blog is a BLESSING!!ReplyCancel

After living like locals on a trip to New York a year ago, we are big fans of the Airbnb model of travel. Why stay in an impersonal hotel room when you can live in a loved home and see the local fare and sites? Airbnb put out a great article on the top trending destinations for the summer. I decided to comb the listings and find the top 10 homes I would choose for my fantasy vacation to each city. The top destination is surprisingly close to home: Music City! Nice to know that the top vacation site is close enough that I might actually be able to go! Some of these are simple, some elaborate, some new, some historic, some country, some city. You have to check out the rest of the homes in their links below! Here’s the top 10 homes (entire home for rent) I would choose under $250:

Airbnb rentals Nashville | westofgrey.com

10// Country in the City | $250

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.01.28 PM9// Quiet, Private & Pretty | $112

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.04.05 PM8// Perfect Weekend Retreat | $175

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.07.26 PM7// Classic East Nashville Bungalow | $125

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.09.50 PM6// 100-year-old Luxury Home | $250

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.13.52 PM5// Little House | $240

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.18.03 PM4// Cool Architect’s House | $250

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.21.30 PM3// Gorgeous House East Nashville | $140

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.35.18 PM

2// Beautiful House in East Nashville | $200

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.25.23 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.25.56 PM

1// Brigadoon: Leiper’s Fork Home c1885 | $200

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.37.31 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.37.43 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.38.27 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.37.59 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.38.15 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.38.45 PMOk, spill it. Which would you choose? If you get curious and find a new one, tell me in the comments!

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Alan has always been comfortable with babies. If there was an infant within a two mile radius, he would find and steal that baby, waaaaay before he would EVER say the M word (marriage). But there is something magical about watching a man become a dad.

untitled-296-2My husband is the best. He’s always been a team player about getting up to change a diaper, taking the baby to give me a break (ok, just hogging the snuggle time, really…), and no one looks better with poop on his clothes.2014-06-15_0001untitled-113-22014-06-15_0002untitled-289-2

My children are blessed and they don’t even know it. They just know their Daddy adores them. And I adore him.

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  • Janita Robertson HerodJune 16, 2014 - 1:11 pm

    You’re right, he is an awesome daddy and the best part is that he is also an awesome husband – the combination of which is extremely important. It is obvious that you guys are involved with your kids and are investing in your marriage at the same time, keep up the good work. I’m proud of you both!ReplyCancel

  • Steve DarmodyJune 16, 2014 - 2:44 pm

    That’s my boy! So proud of him for sure!
    ReplyCancel

  • Joni Whitacre DarmodyJune 17, 2014 - 4:13 am

    I love this tribute to Alan, the daddy. I have watched him these three years of being a parent and have been in awe of his gentle love. I am so proud that he has become such an incredible man, father and husband. It goes without saying that he has always been a terrific son. (I love you, Alan!)ReplyCancel

This has been one of those weeks that is rough emotionally, but for no apparent reason. Inexplicable roughery. But I still found some things that made me smile. Maybe you need to smile, too.

// Pin of the Week:

Tillman Long InteriorsThis whole house tour is worth a look. This is exactly (not) what my house in Atlanta looked like. via Tillman Long Interiors

// I always love to see a design board get implemented well. This keeping room from Darlene at Fieldstone Hill is lovely.

// Casa Kulanu by designer Rela Gleason and architect Bobby McAlpine is such a beautiful example of mixing traditional interiors with clean, modern lines. I will take it. Bag it up, please.

061114-cb2-stylists-picks_29// Speaking of mixing styles, this email I got from CB2 was excellent! Way to make advertising interesting!

// Billy Joel is selling his house in the Hamptons and it was designed by Nate Berkus! Yes please!

// Oliver is teaching me resilience. It is not an inherent trait but a learned technique. This blog post has given me more food for thought on becoming more adaptable in unfair circumstances.

Happy weekend. Try to get some rest for me.

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In celebration of Father’s Day and a few friends getting pregnant, I thought I’d share this list. Registering is an insane exercise when all products swear that not only do you NEED them, but your baby just might die if you don’t use them. After my second child, these are the top 10 items that you won’t find popping at the top of your radar, but I know you’d use regularly. (P.S. No. You do not need a wipes warmer. Put it back. His butt will deal with it.)Top 10 Registry Must Haves |westofgrey.com1// All natural gripe water worked far better on both my kids than medicated anti-gas options. Register for two bottles.

2// These silicone ice cube trays are for pureeing your own baby food from fresh produce. Puree, freeze, pop out cubes into a ziplock and heat up one cube at a time for a perfect serving size.

3// I’ve been catching leaking breastmilk since day one and saved months’ worth of milk because of it. But only recently did I discover the perfect product for doing it. Milkies. Don’t waste a drop.

4// Nose Frida is gross. But no snot goes in your mouth due to filters and a long tube. And the traditional bulb does nothing to unstuff little tiny stuffed noses. This thing is amazing.

5// Baby will grow out of infant car seat so fast. Register for a convertible seat that goes from a 5-point harness, all the way to a big kid booster seat and you won’t need three separate car seats. The Graco Nautilus is a tried and true option, especially for tall kids.

6// Paci clips are lifesavers for finding a paci while driving, in the dark, or simply keeping it from hitting the ground when it pops out.

7// Request that some of your friends buy only clothes larger than 12 months, especially if you expect a large baby. My 3-month-old is already wearing 12-month clothes and has almost nothing beyond that size. We never even wore 3-6 month ones!

8// Get an exercise ball now. Not only is it the most comfortable way to sit while pregnant and most comfortable position for dealing with contractions in labor, but it’s magic for calming down a fussy baby. Bouncy, bouncy…

9// Why buy a big ugly nursing cover when you can buy a stretchy infinity scarf that stays part of your wardrobe long after baby is done eating?

10// Use a nice natural bronzer and eye palette like NYX’s Turn the Other Cheek and an eye de-puffer like Garnier’s Skin Renew to hide circles and puffy eyes from lack of sleep. Getting up and putting on the makeup is still a challenge, but it always makes me feel more human than milk cow.

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  • NikiJune 13, 2014 - 4:06 pm

    Awesome advice. I concur.ReplyCancel

    • AlysaJune 13, 2014 - 7:21 pm

      Thank you for concurring. I promise to concur you in the near future.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle Hoskins MaynorJune 23, 2014 - 3:36 am

    Noting this for future notions. ReplyCancel

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