07/19/2014

The summer we drive a billion miles – update #1

For a variety of reasons that simply add up to doing what is best for us as a family, we broke camp a few weeks earlier than we had planned. As you’re reading this, we’re beginning our next adventure. We’ll be spending some much hoped for time in Virginia with family before heading to the coast of North Carolina. From there, we’ll be beach bums all the way until we make a right turn in Jacksonville.

We haven’t had much in the way of internet access so I thought it would be easiest to throw some words and a slew of photos together here. What’s an old dusty blog good for if not this?

*Disclaimer: the ramblings are just that and in no specific order and the images are all courtesy of my phone since I somehow broke my camera shortly after leaving Texas. All I can say is the best camera is the one that’s available. And if it happens to fit in your pocket while you’re running down a hill chasing a toddler, even better.

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I love access roads. Access roads, access roads, access roads.

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In the cabin that sloped simultaneously to the north, west, and south, the whole of it together smaller than our living room at home, there was no lock on the door. The thin slab of wood had a wide enough gap at the bottom to allow us to watch one evening as a mouse ran right under it and into our midst. That poorly hung lumber was all which separated the “us” from the “them” of the world. Mouse aside, I’ll take the sound of a slamming screen door over a deadbolt for ever and ever, amen.

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There is nothing like being surrounded by twenty year olds to make me thankful I’m not twenty anymore. And also to make me regret skipping out on the gym the past few years.

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Today Abby was reading a book and said she didn’t understand something. “It says her parents got divorced. What does that mean?” Maybe in our current culture eight years is an eternity to stay innocent to the concept – after all, I was so much younger than she when one home became two – but it still made me sad to tell her. So I explained in the simplest of terms and when she replied in shock, “But how does that work?” I answered with the only truth I know. “Not well.”

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I have allowed over nine hundred emails to go unopened and unanswered. As far as I can tell, my lack of response didn’t stop the world from turning.

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Being completely removed from friends and family, not waving to them across produce bins or chatting in a coffee line, makes conversation all the sweeter. Having to drive ten miles to use a phone prioritizes for you. Forget social networks and scrolling through what three hundred friends ate for lunch. When time is short, filling every second of it with your best friend’s voice is the only way to go.

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The first day it broke eighty degrees we discovered that building against the side of a mountain doesn’t exactly allow for a breeze to move through the rooms. I laid on the unfinished wood floors planning to exert the least energy possible. If I could have found a way to not touch anything – to float in the air – I would have. But then Emma crawled on top of me. Belly to belly with the ringlets in her hair damp and her skin sticky, she laid there as though clinging to me would save her from the heat. It didn’t. So while sweat pooled beneath us, I scratched her back and we breathed in unison and I felt the weight of my last baby as I hadn’t in nearly a year.

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If I could bottle my grandmother’s laughter, I would travel the world offering it up as the cure for homesickness.

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I always imagined our girls did their growing when I was busy. For work or pleasure, each time I left, I came back and they were bigger, taller, smarter. Maybe if I didn’t leave, I thought. I have not been away from Emma for more than two combined hours in the last six weeks and even though I watched her every waking moment, I still blinked and she still shed a bit more of her smallness. Time slowed but it most definitely did not stop. Her hair is longer, her clothes shorter, and her opinions stronger than when we arrived. No matter how tiny the home, how simple the life, how devoted the parent, babies just don’t keep.

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Mice 2-6 were much less tolerated – though they caused significantly less screaming – than the earliest explorer, Mouse 1. Mouse 7’s attempt to carry away the Children’s Motrin bottle felt like a personal attack.

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There are different types of country people. I am Texas country. I prefer to float down rivers and I use barbecue as both a noun and verb. Church steeples and stadium lights feel like welcome home banners. I believe the sky should be filled with stars, tea with ice and sugar, and the Fourth of July with parades. Fences are meant to keep livestock in, not neighbors out, ma’am and sir go hand in hand with please and thank you, and knowing someone isn’t a prerequisite for waving at them.

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I am in my mid-thirties and I still have no clue what professional path I should be traveling. My talents feel cobbled together and I constantly hover between forty nine and fifty one percent – too ambitious for this, not nearly motivated enough for that. It’s the pressure of choosing one and leaving the rest behind that paralyzes.

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Toys are overrated. Both girls brought a baby doll, paper and crayons, and a few books from home. My mom was wonderful enough to send some building blocks for rainy days. They danced and sang and sorted rocks. Chipmunks and squirrels were chased, frogs and snails captured, and dandelions were wished upon. Sure, Matt and I have Madeline and Goodnight Moon memorized, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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I fell head over heels, madly in love with Matt on a simple little road trip to Austin. It was the stripped-down genius of sitting side by side for hours without distraction or pretense that let me see him clearly. Fourteen years and thirty states later, there is still no one else I’d rather spend my life – or car – with.

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After dinner one evening, Abby looked overwhelmed. I pulled her aside and in a rush of words she exhaled, “There’s a banquet and Liam asked me to go and can I say no?” A quick response of, “Yes! Oh, sweet girl, you can always say no!” caused her tears to overflow and her shoulders to visibly relax as she sobbed out, “I can?!” with as much joy and relief as I have ever witnessed. She ran off to play and I gave thanks for a daughter who spoke up rather than soldiered on. I wonder how many grownups are living weighed down by the forgetting that we too can always say no?

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Our family is spoiled. Not solely with the tangible trappings of our home but with the community we belong to. The people themselves – the kindness and the gatherings and the conversations punctuated by scripture. Some might call it blessed but a tenth of what we have would be worthy of that claim. The fullness of it goes above and beyond.

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For as much as Vermont isn’t our place and this specific camp isn’t our future, there are things I fell in love with and will miss. The wildflowers blooming in so many different colors and the way storm clouds sink down to hug the mountains and dance through the valleys. The flash of a white birch tree growing amidst all the green. Being so removed from traffic that hearing a truck downshift is startling. Forty degree mornings. Streams and ponds that appear out of nowhere and gardens that grow without a watering schedule. Letting Abby leave the house with only a promise to show up for the next meal and not worrying once about her crossing roads or encountering strangers. Letting Emma ride unbuckled in the front seat. Looking into the eyes of twenty-six horses and seeing twenty-six different personalities staring back at me. Most of all- sweet friends who will finish the summer and then scatter back to their homes in England, Connecticut, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, and the Ukraine.

 

Vermont sunset

emma and the garden

there was a chipmunk under that swing

Woodstock, VT

4th of July

covered bridge

tree

matt, emma, oliver, and teddy

birch trees

bobble head emma

tractor fun

emma making wishes

Montpelier, VT

lacrosse stance

seatbelt-less

honest abe

emma rides pippen

community garden in the mountains

emma lou

country store

Warren, VT

wood barns

dancing at the carnival

relaxing on the swings

swinging sisters

abby's maine sand dollar

maine smiles

tiny frog, tiny toes

abby and the ark

looking down at the horse ring

more wishes

abby and jack

at a maine beach

Kennenbunkport, MA

us

Saco, MA

hotel living

the path

carnival sugar

abby riding jack

the view out our window

emma in the fields

us (tiny version)

exhaustion

"cheese"

her first push pop

Norwich University, VT

Norwich University, VT

emma and friends

masked abby

beach baby

Burlington, VT

rain gear

abby and teddy

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12/28/2013

My 365. Or 377. Or 542.

Last December I decided to tackle a 365 project as my new year’s resolution. My goal was one photo per day taken and posted to Instagram. To make it a little more interesting, or perhaps to set myself up for failure, I also stipulated a color/black and white alternating rotation.

I told no one of my resolution. This way when I quit in February, I wouldn’t have to justify my reasons or excuses.

But then I didn’t quit in February. Or March. Or April. Or when the tiny one didn’t sleep through the night for six months straight. Or when it got crazy hot. Or when the big kid went back to school. Or when we decided to pull her and begin home schooling. Or when any of the insane life stuff happened. Or when boring daily life happened.

I didn’t quit.

This is the first year long project I can remember finishing. I credit the not telling anyone and the fact that I actually began a few weeks prior to January 1st. So from December 17, 2012 until today, December 28, 2013, I’ve followed through. 542 photos posted over 377 days to be exact.

And while these little snippets of 2013 won’t mean much to anyone else, they mean so very much to me. This was my life. I found beauty worth documenting in every single day.

Honestly, I have no plans to stop taking photos. But I am taking this moment to claim the resolution a success and to extend a little grace to myself if I miss a day from here on out.

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10/14/2013

When she wakes…

Emma sleeps

… she will be one.

A whole new number.

A whole year of months behind us.

I’ve thought time and time again about writing down her birth story but something always stops me. Emma herself, usually.

The thing is, all of the contractions and hours and nurses and shift changes aren’t what come to mind when I remember meeting Emma. It is the mostly silent drive to the hospital with Matt. Putting our hands on my stomach to feel her solid kicks one last time. It is checking in at the front desk and asking if anyone has ever just said, “No thanks, I’ve changed my mind” and left, because that was exactly what I wanted to do in that moment. It is sitting in the dark of the night with Matt and answering the nurses time and time again with a yes, yes, my husband really is always this calm. It is the minute between each push when my doctor and I laughed and joked at how much simpler this was than it had been with Abby. It is the weight of her on my chest. It is the way she looked straight into my eyes and all I could think was, oh, so this is how you love more than one. It is Matt gently kissing the tiniest nose I have ever seen. It is hearing Abby quietly singing Oh Holy Night over her baby sister. It is the four of us together.

We have so much to be thankful for. It has been a beautiful year.

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10/05/2013

Breaking the Silence. Kind of.

Emma will be one so very soon.

My blog has sat silent for over two years now. There was simply a day when it seemed like enough had been said. That I’d said enough. Then that day turned into a month. And then there was a pregnancy to survive and a baby to meet and a whole year worth of standing as still as possible so as to not hurry the time away. I held my breath and dove deep and prayed for the mundane to become more. Prayed that the memories would cling to me like sand at the beach.

So there is no baby book. No written log of milestones. But there is this- the fact that I can say, without a doubt, that I have been present this year. I have lived every second of its sleep-deprived glory and for that I am beyond thankful.

And there is also this, a ton of snapshots of the beautiful ordinary that is life with Emma.

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09/06/2011

Summer Recap

I thought the grandparents might appreciate this one.

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08/30/2011

Rain

I woke Abby up this morning with the whispered words, “It’s raining, baby.”

Without opening her eyes, she replied, “Well, let’s go dance in it!”

I fall short so often on this parenting thing, but I’m going to take this as proof I’m doing something right.

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08/18/2011

Life Happenings

According to my grandmother, I’ve been a slacker when it comes to blogging. She’s right. The summer has flown by and I’ve spent as little time on the computer as possible. But to appease the lady who holds all the knowledge I want on gardening, baking, and homemade pickles, here is my offering of household news:

1. Abby is reading. I don’t mean sounding out things like cat and hat, I mean reading, reading. For the most part, this is a wonderful thing. What Matt and I didn’t think through was that apparently a large amount of our parenting relied on her illiteracy. Case in point:

Me: “Oh, no, nope, we can’t go in there. That store is closed right now. Oh well, maybe next time.”

Abby: “O-P-E-N. It says it’s open. The other sign says, Tuesday 10-8 and our clock says it’s 10 and I know it’s Tuesday, so it is open. And that door right there says E-N-T-E-R, that means we can go in there. Oh, and look! S-A-L-E! There’s a sale! We can buy lots of stuff! Lets go. Good thing you have me with you, right Mom? Or you wouldn’t have known it was open!”

2. On Monday I am expected to walk my child into a building where I don’t know anyone and my kid doesn’t know anyone and I am supposed to then leave my kid there with the strangers and go about my day as if nothing is wrong. As if that is not crazy enough, I’ve been told I then need to repeat that procedure every day for the next 13 years.

3. I’ve already been invited to join some of these strangers for a gathering that is – no joke – called the “Boo-hoo breakfast” where apparently we all sit together, cry over pastries and bond through heartache while our children are a few doors down having the time of their lives.

4. I have the best friend a girl can have. She has reminded me that nothing good can come from blubbering amongst strangers – especially as a first impression!- so I will be skipping the formal cry-fest and instead bawling my eyes out over baked goods in the privacy of her home. The fact that she has two adorable children that I can cling to is an added bonus.

5. Abby is trying to sell her artwork. I thought it was a one-day phase, but I was wrong. She’s given this more thought than I imagined as this morning she informed me of her business plan: “Kids will like these pictures but not all kids have money. Parents have money. So I’m going to show kids the pictures but I’m going to sell them to the parents.” Every picture she colors, draws, or paints now has an arbitrary number written on it that she declares is the price. One day I’ll look back on the mementos I’ve kept from her childhood and have a huge gap from this summer as she refuses to let me keep anything without first paying for it.

6. Matt is taking the table business to the next level soon. We’ve registered for a business name and as soon as I’m escorted/forced out of the elementary next week, I’ll be working on a simple website.

7. Matt had Abby help him plane boards last week. Abby told him since she’s helping build the tables, she should get half the money. He just stared at her. She looked at me and said, “I think it’s a deal.” She then started trying to negotiate the selling price of the tables with him. So I guess it’s a family business now.

8. Abby really wanted us to name the business “Erica’s Beautiful Tables”. We don’t know anyone named Erica. She doesn’t know anyone named Erica. She still insists it’s a great name.

9. We have not named the business “Erica’s Beautiful Tables.”

10. As of this month, Matt and I have been married for 9 years. I realize it isn’t a terribly long time, but something about the fact that I am 30 and my husband knew me when I was 19 makes me feel old.

11. In those 9 years, we have eaten breakfast together at home on a weekday morning maybe 5 times. Seriously. One of us has always had to leave for work considerably earlier than the other. Starting Monday, I have to get Abby to school about the same time Matt has to leave for work. He is deliriously excited about “family breakfasts”. He says we’ve had 9 years of marriage not seeing each other in the morning and won’t this be great? I say we’ve had 9 years of marriage precisely BECAUSE we haven’t seen each other in the mornings. He is a morning person. I am not. He is picturing Leave It To Beaver cheer and discussions. I am picturing my face falling into a bowl of cereal as I nod off mid-sentence.

12. I can’t think of better blog material than Abby in school so this site should be hopping along again soon.

06/01/2011

Abby aka Sally

After buying some drinks at the store today, Abby looked at me and with all seriousness asked, “Is this the lemonade without hairs in it?”

{I’m sure everyone else assumes their drinks come without hair, but my kid takes after me in the hating of drinks with pulp in them and since “pulp” isn’t in every two year old’s vocabulary, she’s been referring to it as “hairs” for the last three years. And we understand her, so why bother correcting it, right?}

I had no issue with the question (it happens every time we buy Orange Juice too) until I had a random flash of life imitating art and pictured my child growing into Meg Ryan’s character from When Harry Met Sally and a conversation in the future going like this:

“I’d like a lemonade please. But only if it doesn’t have hairs in it. If you don’t have lemonade without hairs, I’ll take a Dr. Pepper but only if it’s a real Dr. Pepper, not if it’s a Mr. Pibb. If you only have Mr. Pibb then I’ll take a Cherry Coke. I’d like two cherries in it with the stems attached. If you don’t have cherries, then just scratch the order and bring me a water with lemon. I obviously need the lemons on the side though so the water doesn’t end up having hairs in it. Thank you.”

05/26/2011

Bacon & Unicorns

In case there were rumors floating around that we have educational or enlightened conversations around our dinner table, I offer you two snapshots of tonight’s discussion.

Abby: Bacon is healthy for you.

Me: Not really.

Abby: It is if it isn’t dipped in syrup.

Me: Did you just dip your bacon in syrup?

Abby: Yes.

Me: So it isn’t healthy?

Abby: Only the bite that had the syrup on it isn’t healthy. The rest is good for me.

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Abby {after opening a fortune cookie}: What does this paper say?

Me: “Your deepest dream will come true.”

Abby: That’s a lie. You know why?

Me: Why?

Abby: Because my deepest dream is to have a unicorn pet. But unicorns don’t exist so it can’t come true.

05/12/2011

Here We Go

About thirty minutes ago I registered my baby for kindergarten.

Who knew the full gauntlet of emotions could happen in half an hour?

That being said, here are my immediate thoughts and prayers:

1. I’m praying for Abby’s teacher. Not only because my kid is my kid and there’s a good chance she’ll talk too much, but because I desperately want school to be something Abby enjoys and the teacher has a big hand in making that happen. I’m praying for a teacher with patience, creativity, humor, gentleness and a love for the Lord. I’m praying Abby gets to spend the next year with an adult who nurtures instead of hinders, who inspires instead of stifles and who guides instead of forces.

2. I’m praying for Abby’s spirit. Right now my daughter thinks nothing of telling the grocery store cashier that God is in charge of everything. She has no problem praying for a meal while the waitress stands by her side. She doesn’t hesitate to sing praise songs at the top of her lungs while friends and teachers and neighbors listen. I’m praying witnessing remains easy. That she never fears proclaiming God’s love because she never stops.

3. I’m praying for my attitude. It’s so easy to joke about not wanting my baby to grow up but the truth is, I can’t wait for it to happen. Not so she’ll leave me, but because I’m excited about seeing the girl and the woman she becomes. I can’t wait for her to make her own friends and discover her own passions. For as much as I loved those baby and toddler days, I’m looking forward to these next ten years even more. And I don’t ever want her to feel like I love her more now than I will then. So I’m praying that the tears shed over the first day of school will be minimal and I’ll be swept up in the excitement with her and leave the reminiscing for another time.

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