Spotlight Series sponsored by Quinny, a European stroller brand available in the United States.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
NATALIE: We are a HUGE family of 14. We have been together almost 8 years, and were finally legally married on May 22, 2014 in Des Moines, IA. Our twelve children are David John (D.J.) 26; Alyssa 24; Emily Ann 22; Katherine (Katie) 21; Darci 20; Naith 17; Claire 16; Lea and Christian 14 year old twins; Eleanor 13, Reuben 11; Ava 10. These are our children from previous relationships now being raised together under one big happy roof. Some have moved away, gone to college, and are beginning lives of their own. 8 of them still live at home, but the “big kids” are all a part of our daily lives and don’t live too far away. Our oldest daughter, Alyssa, got married to her long time boyfriend, Carmon. Carmon has a daughter from a previous relationship which brought us our first grandchild, Jaylyn. Now they are expecting our next GRANDCHILD in May this year!
TNF: How did you meet your wife?
NATALIE: We actually attended the same high school…..long ago in another time and place in our lives. In 2006, I performed live at a local fair in our hometown as a vocalist. Crystal urged her niece (also a performer) to talk to me, reach out to me so we could meet. We didn’t meet that night, but she contacted me a few days later via social media and we were immediately drawn to each other. She created a “mom’s night out” and made her friends attend just for an excuse to meet in person. We still laugh today about that. We fortunately met right at the end of “wrong” relationships and we have been inseparable since then. We moved in together in 2007. At the time, we were “broke as a joke” and all lived in a tiny 3 bedroom 1 bath 900 square foot rental home. Our kids call us “moms”, “mom 1 and mom 2”, sometimes by our first names (stepkids).
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
NATALIE: During the early stages of our relationship, I think that we did feel different than other families. We grew up in a rural area. I think we felt that way because we were conditioned to feel as such. It was constantly pointed out to us. Close friends and relatives would say “I understand that you’re gay, but couldn’t you wait until the kids are grown?” or “But what about the kids?” or “Gosh, that is just a hard life. Are you sure that’s fair?” In that way, we would often feel frustrated that we couldn’t simply live our lives as we knew was best for us and for our children. It wasn’t really the same for us. So many couples in this country divorce and remarry and never blink an eye or wonder what is being said about the blending of families. In rural mid-Missouri in our early years as a couple we had to worry about things most other couples never worry about: What if one of us becomes ill? What if one of us has to take their step-kids to the doctor or dentist? What would happen if someone questioned the custody of our children? We lived in fear many nights that a nosy neighbor, former pastor or church member, even relatives might challenge our right to parent our children as a couple.
These days, most of those fears have faded. Sometimes in reflection, I realize that I don’t see my partner as “same sex”, I simply see her as my spouse and my life parter. And I forget that there are lingering threats to our relationship and parenting. I am very active regarding human rights and finally feel settled, comfortable and entitled to the same respect that other families deserve. In one sense, I DO acknowledge and embrace the diversity of my family. We are a happy, healthy well adjusted family that is a shining example for other same-sex couples. We want to be an example and an inspiration for other couples who are taking baby steps toward living the life they deserve.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
NATALIE: The answer to that question is a complex one. It IS tough being a gay couple raising children in the most conservative tourist destination in the world: Branson, MO. I know there are scores of people in this area who have a dated and extremely hateful opinion of my right to be married and raise our family. However, there is a huge gay community in Branson. These people have become as family to us. I actually feel blessed to be in an area like this, where I can help educate the public school system, the general population, even churches and neighbors on what it means to be gay. When you live your life with integrity and reach out to people in love, they begin to see my relationship and my family as I do: just like any other American family.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
NATALIE: I always wanted children. I always said I wanted a DOZEN children. How funny is that? I longed to be a wife, a mom. And I embarked on that journey at a very young age. Yet I felt such an emptiness, a hole. That hole was created by living the wrong life. It took me over 30 years to understand my sexual orientation and to find the person I was meant to spend my days with. When I did, it was life being born all over again. Being married again in the right relationship, raising our children together is both the perfect ending to my coming out story and the beginning of my life. I always knew I’d have a dozen kids. Never dreamed it would bring me such joy and I never thought my family would come together quite like this. Life just keeps surprising me…… to be continued
Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us and congrats on the upcoming birth of your next grandchild!