Abby’s sweet voice

Week two of piano lessons and the big kid was given the chance to record the song she has learned to play. She practically sings in her sleep but it’s so much fun to see her sit at an instrument and give it her all.

The tiny one in the background is indeed asking to play the drums… she’ll be a whole different musical story, I fear.


Because I’m a sucker for a slideshow and beautiful music.


The summer we drive a billion miles – update #2

So it turned out to not be exactly a billion miles.

60 days. 21 states. 7,142 miles. 7 beaches. 3 state parks. 1 diaper change on the Jersey Turnpike.

We’re officially home. Physically at least. Transitioning back emotionally into regular life is taking a little longer than unpacking the suitcases. But we’re here and we’re thankful.

I kind of have all the feelings right now that come with being overwhelmed so I haven’t sorted much out via words yet. Here is what I do know.


The drive back from Vermont was a bit of a scouting expedition for us as we’ve always considered a possible move to the East Coast. We crossed some places off our list and added a few others and spent a good deal of time discussing what we want our life to look like regardless of where we go to sleep each night. The slow route home was a fantastic way to debrief together after camp.


Everyone has asked how the girls handled the trip. Truthfully, they were amazing. Sure, Emma got fussy at nap times and Abby thought she was entitled to way more junk food than we allowed, but never once did we threaten to pull the car over or find ourselves trying to swat them from the front seat. I will admit to daydreaming about throwing a Frozen and/or Elmo DVD out the window in at least two states.


We had a lovely family stay in our home while we were gone. (They’ll be missionaries in Japan in a few short weeks and if you’d like to support them financially or prayerfully, I’d love to connect you – start here.) Before leaving, I thought it might feel strange to have someone else living in our house with our things. Nope. Didn’t bother me one bit. If Matt and our babies are with me, I’m good. Stuff is overrated and home really is wherever we’re together.


Headphones are a gift from God. (See above for Frozen and Elmo reference.) And I don’t mean headphones for the kids. No, no, no. Headphones for me means those kid movies can play and those kids can scream (they call it singing and we agree to disagree) and I can gaze out the windshield at beautiful scenery with Drew Holcomb as my soundtrack.


I was able to kiss my husband and run into the ocean with my daughters on beaches from Maine to Florida. It doesn’t get much better than that.


It’s not like we were in a third world country or anything but I’m unbelievably stressed by the choices that come with being home. So many restaurants, stores, roads, etc. I’ve always felt panicky in crowds or malls so it’s not like I left with a stellar track record, but I wasn’t expecting a few months to make such a difference.


Trader Joes. If every town had a Trader Joes, we would never need to buy fast food and road trips would be at least 87% better than they already are.


If ever you should find yourself choosing two movies to take with you as you spend a few months with absolutely zero access to a kitchen, may I recommend that you do not pack Julie & Julia or Waitress. Whatever you do, don’t take both.


Emma still asks daily to go see, pet, feed, and ride the horses. It is adorable and heartbreaking. I need someone local to have a horse or two who could use some extra attention. In case you need proof of her abilities, Emma did receive an award for being the best cheerleader during the horse show at camp.


For as happy as I am to be in our house where we can each go into a different area when we want to, I miss falling asleep with all my people in the same room. I miss being awake in the wee hours and only having to turn my head to see and count my three biggest blessings.


Most of this last leg involved beaches so many photos look the same but I’ll throw a few here anyway.





Abby jumps

Emma's hat

family shot




clear waters

they sleep

the three amigos



NC footprints


Beaufort, SC

beach walk


grass land





emma & mommy

burger queens

sand kids

ocean surveyor




abby ocean



low country

mud baths

beach chairs
FL sunset


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.


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


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


matt, emma, oliver, and teddy

birch trees

bobble head emma

tractor fun

emma making wishes

Montpelier, VT

lacrosse stance


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


Saco, MA

hotel living

the path

carnival sugar

abby riding jack

the view out our window

emma in the fields

us (tiny version)



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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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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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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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.


Summer Recap

I thought the grandparents might appreciate this one.

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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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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.

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