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The Hard Goodbye

Since deciding to make this latest move, I’ve realized that my excitement for this next chapter has been tempered with a twinge of sadness. I noticed that I was dragging my feet on preparing, and as I packed it was with heavy hands and a heavy heart. Even though we felt this move is the best choice for our family and believed that our new location would be a good fit for our interests and lifestyle, I still wasn’t feeling 100% on board. Even though we never intended to settle in the Midwest and our current locale is a bit too congested and a smidge too flat and way too far from family, I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

I’ve moved many times in the past – 16 to be exact – and I know in my heart that I’m adaptable and my kids are resilient. But something about this move feels heavier, harder, despite the fact that Chicagoland isn’t where we envision our future. What is it about this move that seems all the more difficult?

I’ve slowly come to realize, it’s not the place, but the people who are so hard to leave behind. The people who welcomed us into their homes and hearts when we moved here without knowing a soul. The people who have shepherded me into this whole new world of motherhood and encouraged me every shaky step of the way. The people who have held and loved my babies, and have held and loved me through life-shifting transitions.

The people who have shown up with food and laughter and adult conversation. The people who have come over in the middle of the night to snuggle with my toddler as we welcomed a new baby. The people who take care of my children when I have an appointment and childcare falls through and I have no one else to call. The people who invite us over to eat good steak and drink great wine. The people who invite me to simply sit on their floor and sip hot coffee and talk about life. The people who spur me to leave my comfort zone and embark on a hike or a beach day or a trip to the city or a camping trip. The people who make life an adventure and add so much to the journey.

The people who have invited us to join in their family birthdays and holidays and celebrations; where we’ve looked up to discover the humble blessing of being the only ones not related. These friends who have truly become family.

It’s these sacred souls who have made this unfamiliar place a home. These faces that I can’t bear to picture in the rear-view mirror of my life. It’s the abundant love that they’ve poured into our lives and our children, how they’ve become our village, our pillars of support, as we venture through parenthood together. It’s this small but significant community of friends that make it feel impossible to say goodbye.

And so, in the midst of the overwhelm of packing and prepping and planning that has overtaken our lives, I’ve been been intentional these past couple weeks about savoring my time with these wonderful people who have embedded themselves in my heart. I’ve left boxes unpacked as I try to squeeze in just one more play date. I’ve met friends in the rain to explore the park and the zoo because the company matters more than the weather, and I don’t have a day to waste. I’ve lingered longer on picnic blankets under the shady canopy of trees as our children play chase and we leisurely talk about nothing and everything. I’ve welcomed offers of help with packing, less because I needed it and more because I just wanted to spend a little extra time with friends. I’ve watched the shadows grow long in the backyard as we invite friends to stay just a little bit longer. I’ve seen the sky slowly fade to darkness as bare feet run across grass and the kids get to stay up just a little bit later to play together. I’ve meandered slowly home from a drawn out dinner with friends, looking for any excuse to spend a few more minutes together.

There never seems to be enough time to soak it all in. I convince myself if I can see these friends just one more time before we leave, it will make the goodbye easier. Realistically, I know these people will still be here. Realistically, I know that it will probably be a very long time before we come back again. Realistically, I also know that great relationships cannot be limited by distance, though their shape may shift.

I’ll miss the time spent with these great friends in the deepest part of my heart. I’ll miss the smiles and hugs and words of encouragement. I’ll miss the ease and the comfort of our friendship and the laughter that our children share. But I am so immensely grateful to have gotten to know such incredible people. I’m eternally thankful for all they’ve brought to my life. I’m so very glad to have shared something special enough to make parting sorrowful. And I know, there are parts of these sweet souls that I will carry with me through all the adventures that lie ahead.

So thank you, dear friends, for embracing me with nothing short of love and grace. Thank you for the countless ways you have made my life and my time here infinitely better. Thank you for all that you’ve taught me and all that we’ve shared. Thank you for making this unlikely home so hard to leave.

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On the Move Again

Question: What is more fun than moving twice in six months with two young kids?

Answer: Anything.

And yet, this is what our family is doing. Unpacked boxes still decorate the floor of our current house as the real decor remains un-hung. A short four months ago, we packed up our humble home and hauled our life five miles down the road. This was a seemingly simple but actually overwhelming feat. Now, with the dust of the last move still settling, we’re filling boxes once again and making moves. Except this time the distance is 670 miles rather than 5. In a somewhat unexpected, but long anticipated, turn of events we’re moving halfway across the country to Frederick, Maryland.

So why are we doing this again? Why are we going through the stress and overwhelm of packing and moving and managing the transition with kids?

Because opportunity comes knocking on its own timeline. And sometimes you have no choice but to open the door to possibility.

Because dreams need to be chased, even across hundreds of miles.

Because the mountains are calling and we must go.

Because when we found a place that felt both new and familiar, a place that our souls could settle, we decided to call it home.

Because our kids have the opportunity to run and grow and play with their cousins and we see the light that brings to their faces.

Because living closer to and leaning into the love of family can make a world of difference.

Because our adventurous spirits cannot turn down a chance at something, somewhere, that’s new and exciting and invigorating.

Because as hard as it is to say goodbye, the bonds of true friendship can span the endless miles.

Because hope so often lies hidden in the unknown.

Because we refuse to shy away from a challenge.

Because sometimes, oftentimes, the hardest choice is the best choice.

Because our children are watching and learning and this is what we want to teach them: That it is worth it to tirelessly pursue dreams at all costs. That life was meant to be an adventure, and it’s only through the hardship and struggle of change that joy can reveal itself. That resiliency and adaptability and flexibility will serve them well in so many of life’s circumstances. That, as a family, we’re all in this together, supporting each other every step of the way.

Have these weeks of preparation been tough? Yes. Will there be times when we doubt our sanity in making this all happen? Probably. But do we have faith that, looking at the big picture, this will be the best choice for our family? Absolutely.

And at the end of the day, faith is just what we need to take a leap.

Moving On

“It’s like we were holding onto a different phase of life,” my husband mused as he hauled yet another box of our old relics off to Goodwill.

“That’s because we were in a different phase of life when we moved into this house,” I responded wistfully.

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A few weeks ago, we found out we would have to move out of our current home. Since then, our life has been a whirlwind of decisions and house hunting and sorting through stuff, scattered with sickness and birthday parties and visitors. Its as if we’ve pressed fast forward on the already breakneck speed of our life as we attempt to prepare and pack for a move that’s less than two weeks away. So moments of reflection about where we’ve come from, where we are now, and where we’re going are limited to pockets of conversation that crop up between the daily tasks.

The thought of moving has been met with a mix of excitement and hope alongside fear and uncertainty. We are always up for an adventure, even if it is just five miles down the road. A new (to us) house is a fresh start and a blank slate, a novel place where we can dream and build memories and cultivate life together. Then there’s the fear and overwhelm of figuring out how to get everything packed and moved when our kids already seem to consume all of our time and energy. And there’s the uncertainty of whether we will like our new neighborhood as much as our current one, how everyone will adjust to things being a bit different, the small but sure step outside of our comfort zone.

Suffice to say, moving and saying goodbye to this old house is certainly bittersweet. Although we always knew our current abode was just a temporary home, and though the house is not exactly what we want, it’s still a place that has seen us through some major life transitions. We have transformed from somewhat carefree young adults to tried and true parents in our time here. We brought home a baby, and then another, and have watched them and ourselves grow and change so much in the space between. We’ve welcomed life and we’ve mourned loss within these walls. We’ve built a family, we’ve struggled with stagnation, we’ve felt beaten down by circumstances and lifted up by daily joys in this place.

We’ve witnessed exploratory crawling and first tentative steps on these floors. We’ve heard these walls echo with first laughs and first words and heartfelt conversations. We’ve filled this backyard with endless evenings of running and chasing and laughing until we collapse on the grass, watching the clouds and planes drift overhead. We’ve watched our daughters’ faces light up with the morning sun that shines through our kitchen window as they laugh and play together. We’ve wondered in awe how we’ve come this far in only a few short years of living here.

We will be moving out of this house different people than we moved in. We’ve been a bit more shaken by life, both the good and the bad parts, than when we first stepped over this threshold. We’ll carefully pack up our necessities and memories, tossing out what no longer serves us and cherishing what we have instead. And we will carry with us just a few momentos from those earlier days of our previous selves as we boldly stride into this next phase of life.

It’s time to move out and move on.

Light up the Night

Yesterday was the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Or the longest night, if you’re an optimist. The sun set at 4:22 pm, which meant as my children were waking up from their afternoon naps, the sun was already slipping below the horizon.

This can make winter feel like a limiting time. Especially for someone who needs copious amounts of outdoor time in order to feel sane, seeing the sun begin to set by midday can be a bit depressing. When it’s dark and cold and you have small children, you can feel trapped indoors. And with enough of those indoor evenings, the walls start to close in and merriment seems to creak out the cracks of the drafty doorway.

So a few weeks back, when the days began to grow shorter and our patience seemed to as well, our family started a new tradition to mix things up. It was born partially out of a need to force ourselves to get outside in the evening and partially out of guilt for not wanting to do all the Christmasy things, but still wanting to add a little magic to our kids’ lives.

I dug through our holiday box in the basement and found an old string of Christmas lights. Balancing a baby on my hip, I haphazardly wrapped them around the railing on the back deck. A speaker blasted Christmas tunes as I gathered popcorn and hot cocoa to sustain us on a cold winter night. As the sun set, we excitedly counted down – 5…4…3…2…1… LIGHT UP THE NIGHT!

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Was is magical?! No. The first night we did it my daughter complained that her cocoa was too hot (it was lukewarm) and she was too cold (it was 60 degrees).

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But we stuck with it. Not every night, because consistency is not our strong suit, but those nights that we remembered or had time or just realized we really needed a break from the evening craziness. Some nights we dance to festive music, some nights we snuggle under a blanket and share popcorn, some nights we simply stare at the night sky as my two year old excitedly exclaims, “The sky is SO beautiful!”

And I’ve come to love this simple holiday tradition that adds light and love and togetherness into a busy season of the year stacked upon a busy season of life. Years from now I doubt I’ll remember that I failed to bake dozens of festive shaped cookies from scratch. I probably won’t recall that my kids missed out on 12 days of Christmas crafts and I missed the order deadline for that perfect gift. And I don’t think any of us will be too torn up over the fact that we didn’t run all over town partaking in all the merry celebrations and cozying up to every Santa iteration.

What I hope we do remember are quiet ordinary evenings spent outside listening to the swirling sounds of jolly music, our children’s laughter, and the world around us. I hope I recall a time when my two babes were small enough to sit together on my lap, and the inherent kindness in my older daughter tucking a soft blanket around her baby sister to keep her warm. I hope we hold onto the magic and merriment of how a simple string of lights can bring warmth and joy into our world.

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Here’s to the simple pleasures of the season. Here’s to joy always overcoming darkness. Here’s to lighting up the night!

Tips for a Joyful Move

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Over the past few years, I have moved more times than I care to remember. From hopping around college housing (including a stint overseas) to apartments in the Washington, DC area, a travel trailer that took us to Florida and back to Tennessee, a few houses there and now up to Illinois. By now you would think I’d be an expert, addicted to the art of packing and unpacking and creating new abodes. In honesty though, while I love new experiences and places, I really hate the process of moving.

I’ve finally found that there are a few things that help me keep my sanity, and keep tears to a minimum, when drowning in bubble wrap and boxes.

  1. Purge Everything – Before you start packing, take a day and go through all of your stuff and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need or love. Then do it again the next day. With a fresh eye, day by day go through your things until you’ve narrowed it down to manageability. I have to admit, this process is really hard for me. While I’d like to be a minimalist, I tend to err on the side of hoarder – finding it hard to part with that sweet birthday card or that shirt that I might decide to wear in a year. But it’s so refreshing… and you don’t miss the stuff nearly as much as you would think.
  2. Take the Time to Properly Pack  – In my younger years packing and procrastination went hand in hand, meaning that at the last minute I would just throw everything in non-sensical order into boxes. This caused a lot of heartache and shattered glass as things ended up, unsurprisingly, broken. Since we are now apparently adults and have acquired nice stuff and beautiful wedding gifts, with this move I took the time (and recruited my wonderful momma) to wrap and strategically pack breakables. Bubble wrap is your friend. Packing paper (more than you think you could possibly need) is your friend. And a mom who is much more knowledgeable in this field is most definitely your friend.
  3. Label, Label, Label – Again, throwing everything into unmarked boxes is not the most efficient or effective strategy (unfortunately it took me many moves to learn this). You will save yourself a lot of time and headaches on the other end (unpacking) if you take that little bit of extra effort to properly label. I prefer labeling specifics of a box, rather than simply “kitchen” or “living room,” so that I know where to find exactly what I’m looking for. This method helps to decifer which boxes actually need to be unpacked immediately in order for to cook pasta or sleep on clean sheets and which ones can wait patiently in a corner. Thus saving you from living in an endless sea of half-unpacked boxes.
  4. Unpack Everything – Unpacking is the more fun, but no less daunting, part of moving. This is where you get to organize and decorate and make your new house (or apartment or trailer) a home. I prefer to do this slowly, taking time to figure out where I want each piece. However slowly you do it though, it’s important to sort through each box. Confession: I failed to do this on our last move and we ended up with what we not-so-affectionately referred to as our “Room of Shame” – an unused bedroom that remained filled with unpacked boxes for the duration of our time living there. If there are boxes with momentos or seasonal items that you’re not using in the near future, fine, throw them in the basement or back of a closet. Otherwise, unpack those boxes baby! Anything you find you don’t need or have a place for, revert to #1 (toss it). Remember, just because you moved it hundreds of miles doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it now.
  5. Be Really Really Gracious to Your Husband and Father (or whoever helps you move) – This point is especially important if you’re pregnant and can’t actually move much and your role consists mostly of watching them do the (literal) heavy lifting. Both Andrew and my dad were a Godsend. They quickly and without complaint managed to Tetris all of our stuff into a couple trailers, then drove hours (through snow) and unpacked everything on the other end. So yes, I am endlessly grateful for the help of these two great men! All that to say, when people offer to help you, accept their assistance with gratitude (a few beers will usually do the trick) and no matter how haphazard the packing job may look (see image above), trust their superior skills.

Though we hope to be here a little while, this will surely not to be our last moving adventure. With each move we learn a little more and it becomes slightly less painful. Teamwork is everything. If moving with a partner or family – work together, be patient with one another, and chip away at it bit by bit. You’ll get to that happy home dear friend!

Settling In

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After a long couple weeks of packing and a crazy couple days of loading and moving, we’ve finally arrived at our new home outside of Chicago! Though we still face the arduous task of unpacking and making changes and improvements to make the house feel like home, we’re really loving this place already.

When we came to house-hunt, we spent a whirlwind couple of days seeing what seemed like every rental property within a 30 mile radius of the city. Though we know living in downtown Chicago would be an incredible experience, and I especially love the culture of city living, we decided that where we are right now in our lives (growing family, big dog who loves to run, desire for space, ease of parking and driving in the chilly winters, etc.) called for a more suburban locale. In the end, we decided on a little old house in Darien, Illinois, about 20 miles southwest of the city. (Fun coincidence: our landlord’s father built the house when he moved from Tennessee to Illinois).

We’re oh-so-happy with the location so far. At the end of our street is a lovely park with a walking path, sports fields, and playground – perfect for strolls with Bella or taking our little one to play. Just across from the park is a beautiful enormous library that just beckons me to come explore as the days grow colder. Within a few miles of us we have any convenience we could need – grocery store, Target, restaurants, shopping, train to the city – but our street is still quiet and feels tucked back from the hustle and bustle of it all.

And the neighbors – the wonderful neighbors could not be any nicer. Our first day moving, they came out and welcomed us with kind open arms and midwestern charm. They offered tips and recommendations on things to do and places to eat, and an endless supply of information on the area. Within 20 minutes I had been kindly provided with a guest pass to a local gym, offered a job, and met a potential future babysitter. Yes, I think we can be great friends. Moving to a new place and being immediately surrounded by a sense of community fills me with relief and hope and excitement for the future.

That’s what gets me through each box I slowly and carefully unpack – the excitement of making this unfamiliar place home. I can’t wait to share more about our adventures – past, present, and future. I have big hopeful plans!

Home

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After a long few (and fantastic) weeks away, we are finally home! Though I have so many more photos and stories to share, for this brief moment I am basking in the glorious feeling of simply being back at home. Along with the not so glorious tasks of unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and the list goes on…

But that’s ok. Because no matter the tasks at hand, there’s something so comforting about doing them in a place so familiar. A place we’ve made our mark on and is a reflection of us. A place that in turn has made its mark on us.

My mom gave me the beautiful print pictured, a Charles Dickens quote. In my traveling and wandering I’ve discovered the truth of this sentiment more and more. There are few things I love more than exploring and experiencing new places, and one of the reasons is because it makes me truly appreciate my home. Traveling shifts my perspective in a way that allows me to recognize what I already have; and for that I am so grateful.

This place we now call home will only be ours for a bit longer. In a few short weeks we’re packing up yet again and moving on to our next more permanent adventure – Chicago. Looking at the daunting task of finding a new place and moving, I’m scared the new house won’t feel like home. We’ll be in a new city without close friends or family, and though we’ve done it before, it’s no less frightening. So I just have to remind myself one other thing I’ve learned from my wandering: home doesn’t have to be a specific geographic location, but something you carry with you in your heart. It’s what Andrew and I have created together – the love, the joy, the fun, the humor, the honesty; the essence of us – that will fill our new house and make it a home.

Fun fact: While I was writing this post, Phillip Phillips’ song “Home” randomly started playing. It’s a good one folks…

Sweet Dreams

Much of my time is spent dreaming. And that’s not just because I love to stay snuggled under covers in a deep sleep; although that is fabulous as well. I mean the kinds of dreams that swirl around your mind in waking hours. The ones that expand to fill up any empty space that remains throughout the day. Or in my case, dreams that overtake my mind, around which daily life must settle into place.

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Most recently my dreams have revolved a great deal around houses – preferably ones without wheels. A place to call home.

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A place with some space to let my legs and mind wander. A place with nooks and crannies to fill with my inevitable clutter. A place that’s all our own.

I dream of a kitchen to cook up divine masterpieces; or just sit and enjoy simple breakfasts.

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I dream of an open sprawling yard for Bella to roam and run.

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I dream of a porch to enjoy a cup of coffee, a good book, and maybe even a leisurely nap filled with sweet dreams.

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But most of all I dream of the fella I get to share all these dreams with.

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What are you sweet dreaming of these days? Let your dreams shine bright under tonight’s big full moon!

(all images via the always inspiring Pinterest)