If any of us are driving home and pull into the driveway and see one of their cars next to our mailbox, our hearts jump and can’t wait to walk inside and see them. We know their schedules, feel like we can text them whenever, whatever time of day it is, just to tell them to come fill our house with more spice, laughter and warmth. They have all had their shares of dinners with our family in addition to sleepovers. They know how our family plays games frequently, watch The Office religiously and how we’ll stay awake until 3am to wake up at 10:30am for coffee talk in the living room. Each of these people know our mom’s mother V- and will call her “Gramma V-,” too. These next few people I choose to write about have not only affected my life for different reasons, but have to my entire family, which is very special. My family isn’t hard to get along with, but when one waltzes in and makes themselves at home as much as these three have, we consider them “honorary Lentz’s.” By “making themselves comfortable” I mean they open our fridge like their own, yell at our cat, walk in without knocking, help clean the dishes, know where the blankets are and have helped run errands. To go deeper…they’ll be comfortable telling Anna to calm down, John he’s crazy, laugh at me for being “dramatic,” telling Warren to get his own food and go along with Amy’s venting about, well, I don’t know because the picture of Amy venting usually involves her sitting on the kitchen counter eating strawberries, my mom patiently standing listening and I just want to get a snack so I tune out the venting…but these people who’d go in the kitchen would listen to her. They’re awesome. (off the record I looooove Amy venting. But when I want a snack to munch on during Modern Family I want to see the next line Phil says rather than listen to a story about a sale happening at Macy’s).
“Nat-UH-LEEEE” is how we each say her name.
Natalie is by far the forth Lentz sister in a few ways. Natalie became a part of our family when I was a Jr. in High School. She was friends with Warren, then became really close to Amy and eventually opened up a soft spot in literally each of our Lentz hearts. I have vague memories of her doing homework on our couch during the week in high school and coming over after a gathering on the weekends to spend the night. I worked at the mall through high school and one night I was driving home talking with mom on the phone. Mom says, “well, Amy is doing homework, dad is going to bed and I DON’T KNOW where Natalie is.” It got to a point where I’d ask Amy “uh, where’s Natalie?” THEN it got to the point where if our family was going to watch a movie we’d pause and say “hey, call Natalie. Where is she!?” It was hard for us to accept the fact that Natalie had a separate life (which she dominates at and absolutely LOVES her family….we just don’t like sharing her).
Natalie is very compassionate with sensitive care. She’s great at listening to stories and knows the perfect questions to ask after a story. Her questions are unpredictable and adorable. I say sensitive care because she has great wisdom and knows when to share the truth at the right time. I once bought a ton of clothes and when I asked if she liked a shirt I got she says, “well, I mean…ok. How often will you wear that?” The shirt was way too fancy to wear to school and she knew I didn’t dress up often at the time. I thought about it and returned the shirt. I later told her I returned it and she says, “it was beautiful! I just didn’t want you to spend all that money to then not wear it as much as you’d like. But it was nice.” Natalie brings a peaceful, comforting feeling to any room and her winning smile is a plus. Sidenote, she won the Best Smile superlative during high school.
Precious memories of Natalie:
-she called me at midnight on my 17th birthday.
-even when Amy wasn’t home some nights Natalie would spend the night and share a bed with me. One night Warren came to sleep on the floor and sang Disney songs. That was a good night. He started to sing too long so Natalie and I started our own conversation as Warren sang in the background. Finally Warren says “HELLOOO I’m serenading here.” Natalie says “oh my gooooosh fiiiiine. Stop soon though
-The whole situation with whether she looks good in light brown hair or dark.
-Her obsession with my back massages.
-I had knee surgery in December of 2009. With the entire family home I spent the entire break in a bed all alone upstairs. I had several visitors throughout the day, but it got lonely. During that time Natalie visited me almost every day and one day she sent a plethora of texts telling me to come downstairs and be with everyone. Once I came downstairs she’d smile and say “THERE YOU ARE!!!” Yes, Natalie, I remember you calling me on my 17th birthday and what you say when I come downstairs. I remember.
She unknowingly knows our families’ intimate quirks in our house and we love, cherish and miss her a lot. She became an honorary member 5+ years ago and during that time she graduated high school, went to U of I, graduated college and is currently an English teacher at a local high school. I can’t wait to see where this bubbly, caring, amazing woman is in 5+ more years!
I met James when I liked Barbies, Playmobile toys and Beanie Babies. Yup, I met him was I was four years old. I’ve seen him through his stages with almost anything and have seen him become a pretty incredible guy. I know that when he was in 3rd grade he liked to put his name tag from Sunday school on his bible so after a few months his bible just said “James” on it. By 7th grade he had a major crush on Britney Spears. Woops, sorry James. During 8th grade he was the co-founder of the nick-name Murph for me and now almost every male (no girls are allowed to call me this) refer to me as “Murph” in Illinois. We traveled to North Dakota for a mission trip the end of our 8th grade year and on the way to the lake James told me “your face is like a leech…it sucks.” While that is a brilliant sarcastic line…that stung for a bit. All the older high school guys were cheering saying “MAN that was awesome!” The thing is, while he would pick on me, he didn’t like hurting me and is very, very sensitive towards others. He apologized, but we can both agree that was not something to say to a girl…but c’mon, it was a good sarcastic, witty line. I cannot though emphasize his sensitivity though and James, while you may not ADMIT to a lot of it, you’re very compassionate and sensitive when it comes to friendships. We haven’t always gotten along and have defiantly gone through seasons of just putting up with each other.
I share enough memories with him as a few others in my family have, too. James and I are in the same grade and grew up together, but he is Patrick’s best friend. Patrick has been dating Olivia, who I’ll get to, for three years now and one could say, especially Olivia, that James is also dating Patrick. They have a bromance for sure.
James and Patrick have been close for years and their interactions together are pretty funny. For one, they love our cat Lucy a little too much. It’s normal to see James on his hands and knees in our house playing “Lucy hunting.” When Lucy enters a room James and Patrick light up saying with a smile “LUUUUCE. LUCY!!!” It’s a little too much. The boys have their spots in town they’ll eat at–Franks for the Memories being their favorite. During high school if I was trying to get the “group” together and James secretly knew Patrick had previous plans he’d say “ummm if Pappy isn’t going I don’t know.” And he was serious. Even with James’ sister Alaina getting married soon, the rumor is that if Patrick won’t help with the wedding James is out. And he’s the BROTHER. While this could be a joke, James is very serious about Patrick being apart of anything he has to do in this matter. Bromance.
Our family loves James. My parent’s both have a very, very tender spot for him. I know my mom texts him, my dad checks in on him when he’s around and James, well…he has a crush on my dad. Anytime we mention our dad he’ll say “YEA Papa Lentz is THE MAN!!!!” James calls our parents Mr. and Mrs. Lentz still which is very sweet, but when he talks to any of us siblings about them he’ll say “papa Lentz” and “mama Lentz.” If James is over at our house and our parent’s go to bed, he’s sad. If they aren’t home at all, he’s disappointed. It’s rare to have a guy friend WANT the parents to be around because he thinks they’re cool. They are cool, very cool. Just sayin’…most teenage guys don’t want anything to do with parents.
James knows how often we switched rooms growing up. He knows to not park in the driveway unless the blue suburban is already there, knows we keep the soda in a certain spot and usually, only have diet. He knows not to delete shows saved on the DVR, knows we don’t eat out every night and that Papa Lentz makes the best homemade popcorn.
Memories of da James:
-he was with me when I smoked my first cigar. Him and Patrick were going to and invited me to step out in our back driveway around Christmas time two years ago. I went and James and Patrick carefully watched innocent me making sure I was fine. I actually loved it and they both told me it’s kind of unattractive for a girl to like cigars so I should only have one when I’m with them. Smooth. At the time Dad and Warren were at a movie and I remember saying “man I wish dad doesn’t see me” and RIGHT then dad pulls in the driveway. He exits the car saying “is that MARY I see…my MARY smoking a cigar!?” I just smiled and see Patrick and James rolling in laughter. By the time I entered the house dad had told everyone. I guess if you don’t know me you don’t know the details in the fabric, but it was funny.
-Winter retreats with James. I say this because everyone and their mother knew the bond James had with me and my family. If anyone didn’t know where he was, they thought I’d know. If someone wanted James to be on their team for a game they would have me convince him because I had his ear. I did, it always worked.
-My mom, Amy and I went to Guatemala in the summer of 2008 and James was on our team. We felt like he was another one of us on the trip. I caught him on several nights talking with my mom on the patio. One night he listened for HOURS, yes…HOURS to my mom tell him the story of her and my dad’s love story. It was cute seeing James intently listening. He could’ve been with the other kids playing games or goofing off and yet he just wanted to talk with my mom. He sees her all the time back in Illinois and yet even with thousands of miles away he still just wanted to hang out with her.
-During Guatelma James was really into working out. He still is, but there he was very vocal about it. One morning I was reading my bible and I hear from the boy’s cabin “dude…check out my triceps. DUDE.” Later that morning I mocked what he said and James just says “Murph stop creeping on the boys.” Pfft. Whatever Jamesies.
-He made me go on the Batman ride at Six Flags.
-THIS memory I will always, always remember. The summer I graduated high school I tore my meniscus and ACL. It happened at a graduation party and after it happened at the party I just wanted to go home. People asked if they could drive me, but I was insistant of driving myself…with a freshly torn ACL. I started to drive and within two minutes I had the worst pain ever shoot through my leg. I called my mom in tears and asked her to send out any guy at home. She said James and Patrick were home. I pulled in the back driveway and out come Patrick and James. I put an arm around each of their shoulders and made my way to the couch. I remember my dad, James and Patrick watching golf and myself just lying on the couch with silent tears streaming down my face from the pain. I had just fully recovered from ankle surgery two months prior and the idea of having another injury was difficult to process. However, under the circumstances, I was happy those three men were there. James said things like “Mary’s a champ. She DROVE herself home!” Later, once we found out I had torn my ACL James came up to me and said “Mary I tore my ACL in football and you handled way better than I did. You’re the Murph.”
-If there was any new game system, James had it before any other kid. PS1, PS2, Xbox, Xbox360….I feel like he had every single one.
-The Lentz sisters treat James like one of the fam. Amy will punch his arm being the “cool” sister and all like “what up stud what up what up” while Anna feels fine asking him to drive her to Wendy’s. Me? I don’t really know….I think I’ve told James everything in the book.
The date I publish this isn’t on purpose, but it turns out to be the day before James turns 21. On March 20th he turns 21. So, James, the entire Lentz clans wishes you a very happy 21 years of life and it has been pretty neat knowing you since 1995.
Miss Olivia caught the eyes of Patrick 3+ years ago at youth group. I am VERY, VERY protective of Patrick as most everyone knows. He knows how much I care for him so before he asked Olivia to be his girlfriend he came in my room one night after my lights were out and said, “I like Olivia and I am going to ask her out.” As much as I am protective of him, I am not controlling and respect him for whatever he chooses to do. I didn’t know Olivia very well so I couldn’t give my opinion of her, but I knew he liked her so I sat in the dark room and said “well thank you for telling me and giving me a heads up.” That weekend they went on a date and would for hundreds after.
Now, after getting to know her I am struck by a few qualities Olivia has. She doesn’t try to impress people, is compassionate towards others, has a gentle soul, enjoys laughter, goofing off and movies. All of which are just spectacular in our household.
It must be intimidating dating a very loved brother and son of a family of eight. Not only that, but Olivia was the first girlfriend we all had to welcome. I don’t remember Olivia trying too hard to “prove herself.” She has been consistent in who she is and I have grown to really respect that about her.
This girl LIKES simply BEING with Patrick. For that, I 100% love and understand because I am the same way. She’ll literally sit and watch him watch sports or play Xbox for hours. On one summer day Amy came in the living room and said “um, Olivia is just watching him play video games….huh?” My mom said “yea, she does that” with a smile. Olivia is down to earth. At our house I feel that she can be with whoever and we’re all at peace and comforted. I’ve seen her watch sports with my dad, talk in the living room with Ames or run errands with John.
– One thing I don’t understand is how goofy she can be. One night her and Patrick just started to “meow” at each other and I sat there, eyebrows raised and kept saying “you two are very weird.” I still think that’s weird but I can’t judge because I am also weird in my humor.
-While I was recovering from knee surgery Olivia came up one night and we watched cartoons together on my bed.
-The countless family dinners or game nights we’ve shared together.
-Spending 4th of July in a pick-up truck. After shortly meeting her a group of us girls got a truck, went to a parking lot and spent hours watching the fireworks and eating junk food. I got to know her hobbies, what her friends were like at school and we both realized we shared a love for One Tree Hill.
She isn’t high matenience, easy to get along with, caring, adorable, and is absolutely smitten by my brother. She handles our competitiveness, loudness and intensity…all of which are traits she doesn’t carry. Being able to adapt to our craziness, accept us for our different personalities while sticking to her little ‘ol guns is precious and honorable, like her.
All three of these people are very dear additional members to our family. They show their love for our family more than they know and have invested in each of us with complete sincerity. I can say on behalf of my entire family we love each of them for THEM and when we have game nights or gatherings, they fill a void that is irreplaceable.