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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5 Comments to “The summer we drive a billion miles – update #1”

  1. What a wonderful summer you have had!

  2. Love your ramblings. I know what you should do professionally. Ramble and publish. You’d make millions. Great photos too!!!

  3. Your words and photos are beautiful! What a gift you’ve given your kids. And holy moly! When did your littlest girl get so big?

  4. Such Beauty!

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