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London | Day 1 | Europe Holiday

“Charles Dickens routinely walked the streets, in 10 or 20-mile stretches, applying his inimitable powers of observation to its blustery rush, its incoherence and inconsistencies.

In sight and sound and smell and touch he conjured the perfect tapestry to weave his stories of love and loss, regret and reward into. It leapt from the realm of the workaday to the wonderful.

London was his muse. It was what really inspired him to write his great works. But his relationship with it was a love/hate one. He explored its dark as well as its colourful side.”
(Lucy Davies)

LONDON_FAMILY_TRAVEL_KIDS_DAY_TRIP

Our Month Itinerary

  • London, England - Day 1

  • The Cotswolds - Day 2

  • Brighton, England - Day 3

  • The Netherlands - Day 4

  • Utrecht - Day 5

  • Amsterdam - Day 6

  • Geithoorn - Day 7

  • Haarlem + Leiden - Day 8

  • Munich, Germany - Day 9

  • Salzburg, Austria - Day 10 + 11

  • Berchtesgaden, Germany - Day 12

  • Hallstat, Austria - Day 13

  • Venice, Italy - Day 14 + 15

  • Nice, France - Day 16

  • Rouen, France - Day 17

  • Normandy, France - Day 18

  • Mont Saint Michel, France - Day 19

  • Paris, France - Day 20-27

  • Disneyland Paris - Day 28

  • Fontainebleau, France - Day 29-30

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After a bumpy, out-of-our-hands-start to this experience-of-a-lifetime trip we woke up on a few hours of sleep, determined to adjust our bodies and see the wonders of London! (It took about 33 hours from leaving the house to get to the airport to arrival at our London hotel, instead of the supposed 12-13. Our airline didn’t offer wifi, and we tried to get in touch with our hotel, but we couldn’t and they canceled our entire reservation… so when we arrived at 2 am the following day, we had to figure out for an hour where to go. Anyways! We were wiped, and didn’t know we’d be hitting out-of-our-control-snags often… far more often than normal during travel and life, at least in our experience! It had the effect of both making the trip require more of us than we anticipated, but also made room for us to seeeriously “taste the flavors” of what was good. We made some of the best memories of our entire lives, and KNEW it. And sat right there in it, like a bathtub with the drain open… letting all the water run out before we moved, delighting in all the splashes and play we could. Until next time. And there was always a bubbly, exciting next time to wait for!)

Our first stop of the day was the 10:45 am Changing of The Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a distinct and impressively performed event that is very worth seeing! Not just a “tourist trap.”

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I had brought along in our suitcase a homemade, burned-edge Pirate’s Map with directions to Neverland, fairies I ordered from Amazon, and sparkly pixie dust I found in my mom’s closet. We told Rue and Jo that Neverland used to be up in the clouds, but Captain Hook captured it so now it was in London, where he ship-wrecked. They watched “Peter Pan” daily leading up to the trip, and we wanted so much for their little imaginations to run wild of the story. My sister, Katie, was super helpful in subtly sprinkling dust along our walk, and I would set fairies in various places nearby. “We MUST be on the right track, guys! Keep following the signs to Neverland!”

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The fairies led us to Hyde Park, and Princess Diana’s Memorial Garden - a quintessential, peaceful, and oh-so-lovely nook on the earth.

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“Peter Pan: The boy who would not grow up.” We told the kids that Peter Pan watched over Neverland during the day, and came to life to fly around London at night. Once we could find Peter, we KNEW we were close to the fantasy world, where Captain Hook’s REAL ship was still hiding!

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“Time Flies.” When we weaved our way through the paths and hedges to get to the Princess Diana Memorial Park, all Peter-Pan themed, Rue was glowing. He kept saying “I just cannot even BELIEVE we really found it! Can you even believe??” He had the place to himself for a full hour, and it was just what my mama-heart hoped would be (of course memory-making doesn’t always go like you envision! So it’s sure sweet when it really does.)

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The playground is near Kensington Palace, and the darling Notting Hill and Portobello Market area of the city. We wandered through colorful cheery lane after lane, ate a needed lunch of big-burgers and piles of fries, and soaked up as much dearness as we could.

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Then we took the world-famous Tube trains to the Tower of London. We missed the early afternoon crowds, and had a mostly-quiet atmosphere to see the crown jewels, the ravens, interact with those delightful beefeaters, be mesmerized by old things like “The Bell Tower, 1020,” and even breezed through the Torture Tower (not visually gory by any means). I will repeat, as I post about this trip, what we repeated many times a day on this trip: it is impossible to not be impacted by the real history of generations upon generations of lives and stories that came before you when you’re in places like these. Places hundreds, thousands!, of years older than our entire established country.

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“There was no electricity! No motors! No cranes! These were hand-dug from the ground, hand-loaded to a cart, hand-built and carved into this building. And, 1000 years later, here we are touching it. HOW did they do this? HOW did they figure it out? HOW did they work so hard?” How many stories we know of that happened here, and how many have been lost to the silence of Time Past? How meaningful, how blessed, to be able to come with our eyeballs, and fingertips, and dreams, and take in history before our eyes.

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This little scene brought me tickled-joy. Two grown kinds giving gifts, and being clever and funny about it. 800 years ago. Just love it.

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We were sluggish and ready for sleep by early evening, so we took a red double-decker bus back to our hotel… and as we neared our stop, we saw the reflections of a Mama Bear Pink Sunset on every window and car-mirror. I turned around to see this sight, after an entirely grey, sunless day… we ended Day One with what is the equivalent of our family’s Promise By Rainbow. Filled with peace, gratitude, and eagerness for rest and all the adventures to come, we slept hard.

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Meaning + Thoughts | Europe

“Isn’t it what all the great wars and battles are fought for -
so that at day’s end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?”
(Ursula K. Le Oiun)

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The longing to be able to bring others into my actual thoughts is incessant. Moving from the boundary-less brain to the confinement of word, written or spoken, or visuals, is a frustrating process. Never has clearly overlapping, stumping, united and profound on the outside as it is inside the home of my mind.

I posted in 11 different parts on my IG feed the 11 different strands to a braid; a braid that has been wrapped round, and stitched up, to become the metaphorical basket holding our trip. Everything we did, gathered, overcome, and felt was set inside our little Thought Basket, and we arrived in the States yesterday with special things overflowing from the top (we’d stop often to bend over, and smash an item or two back in for the time being. Everything will be sorted out and unfolded and given a place soon.).

Here are these thoughts listed out in blog-format for ease of reading and referencing, and to try to communicate the headspace we’re in… and why “all this” meant “so much.”

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PART I: THE ABILITY TO CREATE HONESTLY, TO SAY SOMETHING MEANINGFUL

Our flight to London from Newark was delayed by many hours (come to find out, the entire airline would cease to exist after an instant bankruptcy a few weeks later. But that’s a Tom Hanks style story for another time). This Tom Hanks story is about his young lookalike, an 83 year old NY art professor, and a world-champion-boxing, Reebok-sponsored, international model-and-painter.

The three were on the same flight as us, delayed like us, and happened to sit by us with water bottles and sandwiches at our gate. The three talked for hours, and Caleb and I eavesdropped for hours. Young Tom gave every reason to believe he was a spirited, affected writer or journalist of some sort. He did the majority of the prodding and question-asking, creating an empty bucket for the other two to spill their thoughts. Our modern age, communication, art, intimacy, money-making ... they covered much ground. When asked his thoughts on Instagram, the professor paused and said, almost word for word (I took notes):

“For 55 years I’ve been teaching students the critical nature of authenticity and art. ‘Say something, ask something, and mean it,’ I tell them. And now I see pretty girls in pretty outfits, out in every corner, with their boyfriend or girlfriend taking dozens, hundreds, of pictures. They run to the camera and check, then run back and try again. All this time, and effort. And I wonder: what are they saying? Everyone can make art, but not everyone does. The quantity of images that exist is beyond grasp, but what is being created? And what are these voluminous creations saying? What do they *mean*? I worry about losing the ability to create honestly; to say something with art form.”

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PART II: ROOM FOR GOOD THINGS TO RUN WILD

A few days before our trip I received a message from @littlemamaclark, who was sending along a GK Chesterton quote she thought would resonate with us.
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It did.
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"And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” On our little drive to Normandy, France Caleb and I spent most our time thinking out loud about these ideas. We agree with them.
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Not let the wild things run wild.
Not let the good things be hidden under a bushel, locked inside a tight box, or walled in (with patrols in the look-out towers, watching every move).
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Then the questions are begged: What is this room-giving order? What is good? And how do you let it out? We’ll be dwelling here for some time. “Whatever is honest, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of goodness, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

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PART III: THE PRESENTATION OF HONEST JOY

Someone Caleb and I followed before we even met, who is known online for her beautiful everything: family, pictures, home, parties, body, words, thought process, etc shared some significant and heavy life updates recently, while constantly proclaiming freedom, hope, and joy. She wrote this on Facebook during our trip, in response to messages she was getting after her ‘big announcement’: "I've had maybe a dozen messages that read something like this one I got:
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'Incredible what we will portray to the outside world because we feel we have to. I always thought you were so blessed in life and love... a picture perfect life...'
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I'm sure the messages aren't in ill-will, and I am glad for them as it gives me the opportunity to share of the Power of God.
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Every picture I have ever posted was real joy. It was, and is who we are! We never put on a show. Ever. We never ever even thought to hide. We never felt we had to portray anything but who we were. And here is who we were and who we are now: strong and resilient [and joyful.]
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We made daily choices to find the good and joy in our lives. This is my mantra and my mission, and my heart.
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I led us all these years to not just be content, but to thrive, and fight, and love, and enjoy all there was to enjoy in life. I have always been honest with the world, friends, and anyone that God is near to the broken-hearted and that suffering has drawn me close to Him and to see life in an entirely different way. I spoke of this insistently and with still respecting my own privacy and life.
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There is no need to portray. There is no need for picture perfect. We are just us - the joy of the Lord was our strength to bring us into freedom.
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I was also given the power of the Most High God. That, you guys, is not a portrayal, it is Matthew 22:29: 'And Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God."' I have known His power. I have experienced it. Seen it, felt it, been saved by it, been comforted by it. Been renewed by it, healed by it." ( - 
@hope.chronicles )

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PART IV: THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS • By Wendell Berry
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“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
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I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
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I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time I 
rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”


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PART V • TAKE YOUR TIME, AND HAVE IT, TOO

We ate in Rouen, right beside La Couronne, the restaurant that introduced Julia Child to French Cuisine and her destiny. “The most exciting meal of her life,” she later wrote. When I had checked a few months earlier, the Michelin-rated establishment did have a few reservations left for the day we’d be there but we opted for a more flexible, kid-friendly dinner plan.

Inside the neighboring restaurant Caleb and I talked over our risotto and a pasta dish called “Surprising!” Other than us and our affectionate waiter, the place was empty. As we were finishing up a pair of couples (probably in their 60’s) came in, then seem confused. The waiter went smiling and running towards them “Yes, yes... you’re in the right place! No one is here yet because it’s so early!” It was 7:30 PM. They laughed, and we couldn’t help but overhear as they engaged the waiter about American vs. European culture.

Someone asked our server about a day in his life: “Oh, well, I get up around 9 or 9:30, you see, and start to work at maybe 10:30 until 2. Then I have the afternoon off for my pleasure, and I come back to work at 5:00. Please, sit... and you must take your time.” I ordered a re-fill on my wine.

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PART VI: STOP AND STARE, LIKE ANIMALS DO • Sheldon Vanauken, “A Severe Mercy”
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“Those walks, especially as the sun got up and began to warm us, were leisurely, full of pauses to talk to a farmer or farmwife. Some-times they would have us in for a glass of fresh milk. Or sometimes we would stop and sit on a wall, eating a sun-warmed tomato, talking or peacefully silent. Often we talked of the sad and somehow outrageous fact that in most lives, perhaps our own before long, there isn’t time for long walks and sitting on walls.
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We quoted a poem by W. H. Davies to the effect that
it is a poor life if we have no time ‘to stop and stare’ as sheep and cows can do. We agreed. Nor were we cheered by the prospect of an occasional day off from an office, for with only one day there would be a sense of time at one’s back, a time too limited to ‘waste’ sitting on walls.
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How were we to contrive a life full of time—a timeful life—where we could be quiet and leisurely, where we could stop and stare?”

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PART VII • THE ART OF CREATING TIME

European law requires all companies to give employees a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation. Many countries have holiday requirements, too. (Forget some of that northern-Europe maternity and paternity leave...!). While this is obviously a very political, economical, and statistical conversation, all of that is secondary to the essential, soulful nature of having time.

Time to rest. Time to sleep. Time to waste. Time to bond, and stay bonded. Time to experiment. Time to wonder. Time to prepare. Time to see where this good thing called “time” goes when it has room to run wild. Time for time to go slow. Time to create quality (because quantity time DOES create quality time. Every product that would be considered “high quality” takes more time to produce. Rush is not the creator of merit.). Productivity! Goals! Hustle! Progress! Innovation! I know. I know. There’s outstanding reason to believe that the outcome of released pressure, gathered hours, and enough pausing (daily, weekly, yearly) revives a worker to be their most creative, rejuvenated, sharp self.

Before the Industrial Revolution, and light-bulbs and electricity, there was no government mandate. There was darkness. And coldness. Long winter in many parts of the world to guarantee a built in hunker, hygge, and re-fill. One of the very first things we know about God in Scripture is that He produced creative work (without effort), He loved what He had done and made, and He (not because of tiredness) rested to do nothing but enjoy.

One rest-day a week is about 15% of a week. 15% of an average waking day is about 2.5 hours. 15% of a year is about 7-8 weeks. As much as Caleb and I have discussed and agreed on these loose principals, it’s taking time to turn this big ship named Lady Life. We arrive here, in 2018, with all the shoulders of past generations under our feet... and we’re convinced we must figure out how to take hold of the time we’ve been offered through the sacrifice, and often brutal drudgery, of others.

The best of the past (villages, organic, local work) can go hand-in-hand with modern technology, education, and access to the world and all its potential. We can create room for time.

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PART VIII: THOSE WHO LIVED

A week before this trip, we as dinner with my mom’s best friend and her husband, who recently returned from their 30th-anniversary-trip: a week in France. ⠀

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We saw their pictures, and heard their stories. We told them our itinerary and hopes for our upcoming month. At one point they shared an observation, after describing their long, lingering meals every day: “Our guess is that the difference in cultures is in large part due to the World Wars. They had to live here, see it, re-build it. It’s like they collectively understood they have to take time to enjoy good in life...” ⠀⠀

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Their thoughts matched precisely with what I heard Esther Perel, a skilled marriage and relationship therapist, share about her parents. They were concentration camp survivors, and met on road as they walked the direction of Home after liberation. Her parents felt a sense of special honor and fortunate responsibility. Esther said “There were those who didn’t die, and there were those who lived. My parents lived.”

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PART IX • FAITH IN THE STORY PROCESS

“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.” (Wendell Berry)

One of the, oh, how do you rank these things?, Top Three most important values we are hoping to instill in our kids is the value of story. “What happens??” “You have to read it; you have to watch it.” What happens? You have to live it, little ones.

Everyone has a true story — many would break your heart — and everyone has their version of their story, some more accurate to the truth than others. Be the kind of boy, or girl, or man, or woman, who cares about the stories. Cares enough to ask. Cares enough to see what happened. Stories, by definition, must have “a conflict,” or “a problem.” You’re a living story, and you must be prepared to overcome and resolve.. Imagine, reflect, envision — make up stories, and re-tell stories, and write them on the tablet of your soul, and read them — on paper and on faces.

“Keep your faith in all beautiful things; in the sun when it is hidden, in the Spring when it is gone.” (Roy Rolfe Gilson) Believe in the power of all these pieces, more than could ever be told, and be curious about the Author. What is He saying? What does His story mean? 

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PART X: WHEN THE WORLD GOES TO WAR

Actually, 1850-1950. 100 years where the life as century upon century before had known it, changed for good. We’re the great-and-grandchildren of these unbelievable years. I have an enormous amount to say our perspective on the Industrial Revolution, WW1, Belle Époque and the Roaring 20’s, The Great Depression, WW2, and “the fabulous 50s.” What a whiplash for our collective psyche. What a series of intense brokenness and valor. I’ll share more with time.

To say the least, though, it was powerful to watch our children play on the rocks at “Bloody Beach” (Omaha Beach) in Normandy, to walk over the buried bodies of the men who died there... for things just like this: families to safely, freely vacation and enjoy their lives together.

On this trip we’ve seen our children in Anne Frank’s bedroom in the Secret Annexe where she wrote her diaries, in the hiding place the Ten Boom Family used to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives, beneath the crest where Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” sits today, in front of the wall of names of French Jews at the Holocaust Museum in Paris.

Another Tom Hanks moment, before he dies in Saving Private Ryan: “Earn it.” Know what happened. Live like you care that you’re alive — not just that you didn’t die. Do something that matters (the courage of love and kindness, the smallest ways, matters). Prepare to be brave. And enjoy all their sacrifice granted us. When the evil things threatened to run wild, room was made for good. It didn’t eradicate evil or it’s consequences, but our generation has been giving the chance to make room. We have voices, ability, and opportunity... may we earn, use, and enjoy them deeply.

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PART XI: ROOM TO SHARE, TIME TO GATHER

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” (Wendell Berry)

When we travel, almost more than ever, we find ourselves commenting about who we know and care for would love this! or that! or thus! “Gosh, I was my dad was here...” “Wouldn’t your sister be losing her mind?!” “Ugh, if I could teleport The Girls right now...” Within the community of our family of four, it is sweet work, expanded joy, and a precious gift to be able to welcome people into our world. We share our home dozens of times throughout the year, but this trip was an extra layer of “dream comes true!” by being able to work it out that we could include six of “our people” with us. To not just wish so-and-so could be seeing “_______,” But to actually see them seeing it. Experiencing it together. From 13 days to less than 48 hours, each person who became a part of this trip is deeply special to us. My sister, Katelynn, then our like-a-sister friend Caroline, then “my bestie” and her husband, Lydia and Stefan, and ending with Caleb’s mom and sister, Cindy and Bek, added so much to the story of this month. (We had hoped Caleb’s twin and family could join us, but schedules didn’t work out... instead they were able to take advantage of the cheap flights and go on their own month long voyage earlier this year!) It’s meaningful to get to add memories, to overcome little travel hurdles, to be seen at your best and worst, and to share “once in a lifetime” with ones your soul loves.

Sometimes space and privacy is very important and necessary and good, but sometimes sharing space, joining together, and coming along with each other is the beautifully good. (We missed a few dozen others, though… Can’t we just all re-locate to the same lovely village and live there forever, growing and connecting and creating side-by-side?)

Cruise

“Rest and repose are as much a part of life’s journeys
as seeing all we came to see.”
― Gina Greenlee

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At the beginning of May we, marking the conclusion of a full work season, were so giddy and grateful to take our kids on a cruise (Tampa port, to Grand Cayman and Cozumel). We had a handful of days marked on our calendar to "do something fun." We talked about doing Disney and Universal "like tourists" and staying up there. Talked about heading south and seeing some of the beaches in our state we've never explored yet (Miami, Key West, etc). Talk about Amelia Island, or Savannah, or 30A. Or doing that northeast trip we've been pining for for years. But when "cruise deals" came up... we couldn't resist. 

Just too easy. Paid for ahead of time. Nothing to research or prepare for. No "transporting" or "traveling to." No loading and unloading. No "going." Just showing up in our city, getting on a boat, and everything ready for us... the whole time. I kept saying to Caleb "This is why cruising is a preferred way for retirees... its so EASY!" 

As far as vacation and rest goes, it couldn't have been more restful and... well, easy. We felt so pampered! The kids went to the kid's camp every day for a few hours, so we even got alone time every day... "for free"! Ha! We got to dress up (I went a little outfit crazy...), have no worries about "too much luggage," and just lounge around and say "yes!" Yes, you can have pizza! Yes, you can have ice cream! Yes, we can go to the pool! Yes, you can do the slides! Yes, we can snuggle with you! Yes, yes, yes!

If that isn't rest, I don't know what is! Here's documentation for our personal family history and a few notes on highlights for me <3 

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  • Boarding the ship was one of the best parts. We've been so committed to traveling with our kids, even if and when it's hard and extra effort, but we almost couldn't stop laughing at the embarking process. "That's it? This is all? This is so easy!" All four of us were giggly and it was just so sweet.
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  • The Guy Fieri Burger Bar and Blue Iguana Taco Cantina right by the pool were daily indulgences. Both far better than "cruise food" I've had before!
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  • One of my favorite details of Caleb when we first met was how he had two perfectly balanced sides: bumming around and dressing up. I loved both. And I love now that he's in music he always gets to leave the house "looking nice," as opposed to construction where clothing was just practical. Rue has adopted his dad's appreciation for "handsome clothes" and picked out a number of looks himself. They both felt pretty fancy and it killed me.
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  • Will never get over evening light on the ocean.
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  • They discovered sugar cereal... and fell in love fast and furious!
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  • We *might* have watched Rue go down the slides 876 times. For hours and hours and hours and hours. And it was the best.
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  • Jo took it upon herself to show Baby the Caribbean. Baby wasn't far from her side all trip! I love the third photo here... Jo was SO "mama bear" when Baby got splashed by someone coming down the slide! Hahah Don't mess!
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  • On one of our "date nights" we played each other in putt-putt. I lost by ONE stroke and we re-matched the next day. And I won by ONE stroke! We are going to break the tie at a putt-putt course near us sometime this summer hahah Definitely a Top Three part of the whole trip. Just have so much fun with my Mr. Morris. Ps. Also def did the couples massage. "Take me back." 
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  • Other than the slides and 24/7 food bar, the kids' favorite part was probably the fold-down beds. Obsessed and adorable!
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What We Did In February 2018

"To think that we, who thought ourselves rich before, are made so much richer now."

Elizabeth Prentiss

Documenting the riches of our ordinary, "gets all blurred together," responsibility-filled, confusing (because when human hearts are involved there are always questions and there aren't always answers -- or at least clear and easy ones), inestimably precious, rich-in-joy, holy ground of daily life. One month at a time.

WEEK ONE

  • Jo and I went on a very special trip to New York to be with her Aunt Bek and Honey. Late this past fall Bethany felt a lump in her throat. After all sorts of doctors' appointments, googling, opinions, and options... there was very little clarity. As a family we were praying for the obvious (full healing!) but for the Lord's guidance and clarity for "the next right step." The confusion was just so sad. Dun dun dun... all those "wrong" paths led Bethany to a specialist in New York. She and Cindy initially went for a consultation and a few days, but it turned into identifying the tumor AND having surgery for it. All in one trip!

We arrived the day before surgery, made the most of the freezing, icy, rainy New York Wonderland, hung out in the hotel, and just waited for the next day to come... a day riddled with questions and unknowns. Bethany's composure and elegant grace deeply moved me. Of course she was nervous, but she had a sweet steadiness about her that brought me chills many times in that 24 hours. Cindy, too. They were out here alone, doing "tumor things" again, during the same time of year as they had as a family before... and they just. did. it. 

I've been studying the embodiment of beauty in my personal (and partially public) life, and one of the main verses I've reflected on - I even blogged it a few weeks before my trip! - is Acts 3:2. After a simply stunning day of peace, thrillingly happy news over the outcome of the surgery (went better than all were expecting! They removed the whole tumor with no long-term side effects!!), and relief... I walked out the hospital lobby (where I had been a number of times that day), and happened to turn around. I noticed, for the first time, the words inscribed over the arches leading into the hospital: Acts 3:2.

A beautiful, cherished time in my heart... a time when God seemed so near, working so joyously on the behalf of His children. I know He is good when He gives and when He takes, but this all felt like a particularly triumphant "Give!" and we are all so grateful. 

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Slap happy and wild. Phew. She is at a tough age of wills, energy, and "keeping in small, quiet, germ-y places' (like hospitals and airplanes)... but I'm so proud of her for being forced out of her comfort zone, and learning how to handle it. We had a few especially sweet moments that I had to jot down as "mom highlights." Love discovering the world with and through this little one.

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Honey, Bek, Corrie... we love you so! Let's do margs on the beach next time, k? 

WEEK TWO

  • A Grandiose Day. I love the simple, tiny things... I love how they all add up in a lifetime (or at least seven years so far...). But The Grand Gestures only mean that much more. The guy is tired. He's working seven days a week for a little bit of time here. And yet, Caleb spent every night while I was away in NY working on his Valentine's Surprise. Making wooden flowers by hand, painting them in the garage, researching dinner options, ordering balloons (and then, the morning of, rising at 4:00 am to fill and tie them all himself), finding "themed" treats, going through my Amazon Wish List and picking out a gift, serenading me, roses (special for some secret reasons only he knows... not the normal "classic love flower" reasons). And then, on top of it all, he took off work that night - which is NOT usual! He works on holidays because they are some of the best days, and I want him to! But he told me he always sees these couples enjoying these nights, so much energy in the air for "the world," ladies all dressed up... and he wanted me to be one of those ladies, right with everyone else. He got one of the last reservations at our favorite restaurant, and he just truly lavished himself on me. Which, I don't care if this gets me in trouble or labeled or not, isn't particularly rare. And I'm grateful and blessed to the heavens that even on the most normal, routine days... he makes me feel so loved by him A day I'll never forget, because of all it represents.
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  • Our Valen-Tiny's had a pretty fun day getting notes, candy, and special treats! How I adore them!
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WEEK THREE

  • After a blissfully full January and early Feb, we've settled into an intentional simple life for the moment. Keeping Caleb fed, rested, and healthy is the main priority! Structure like we're doing isn't "as natural" for us, but we've learned we need it sometimes! So far so good! We couldn't resist adding on night of fun, however. The last night of the Florida State Fair we met up with our dear friends, the Ahlgren family, and watched seal shows, watched the kids go down giant slides, went on the ferris wheel, munched on Amish donuts, dared Dave to that rope-ladder-climb, and met some "scawy!" animals in the barns (Summer stared down a horned-bull! I think Summer won... hahah)
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WEEK FOUR

  • One of my biggest goals for this year - especially this season of Caleb's schedule - was to get out of the house with the kids! Vitamin D, salt water, sand minerals, fresh air, childhood treats... it does everyone so much good! So 4-5 days a week the last three weeks, you can find us at the beach, or park, or wandering Tarpon Springs!
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  • C and I are also trying to make the most of our mornings together. And our time alone with Jo (Rue is in pre-k from 9-noon). I love these memories of breakfast, coffee, oil changes, gym, and putting around town between 9 and 11 as a family of "three."
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  • One of the best parts of our many hours at the beach has been the chance I'm getting to read! (Seriously... quality/fun time with the kids, getting out in nature, moving their bodies, and basically "free time" for me - in between all the little requests. Can't beat it!!). I'm one of those people who likes to read a few things at a time, but I'm almost finished with "Liturgy of The Ordinary" by Tish Harrison Warren (as recommended by Megan Haughery).  The beauty and importance of the ordinary is so near and dear to my heart, and this book was equally interesting, "amen-ing!," and "new way to look it this"-ing for me. Feeding my family is one of my greatest joys, but in the midst of reading I was prompted in these moments to just *relish* the goodness it is to make grilled cheese, and cut up little produce bites, and present my babies with their food.
  • And just this week we started what I hope I can keep up with: lunchtime is story time! When I was in school we often had 10-15 minutes of "quiet" eating and the lunch monitor would read aloud to us, and there was a season during homeschool where mom would use lunch to read chapters of scripture or of chapter books. I always loved being read to while eating. So far it's been a huge success: more peaceful lunches, more food in mouths, and a feeling of mid-day connection <3 
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February, you were good to us! March and April hold 4-5 groups of visitors and we are SO thrilled! Can't wait for all the new memories to move from anticiaptions to realities to preciously-held-rememberings. 

What We Did In January 2018

"To think that we, who thought ourselves rich before, are made so much richer now."

Elizabeth Prentiss

Documenting the riches of our ordinary, "gets all blurred together," responsibility-filled, confusing (because when human hearts are involved there are always questions and there aren't always answers -- or at least clear and easy ones -- to them), inestimably precious, rich-in-joy, holy ground of daily life. One month at a time.

Week One

  • Caleb's First Smoked Brisket / We stayed up well past midnight to taste it, and were so giddy together. It was fantastic.
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  • Just loving the 18-24-month-ish (and big-boy-4-year-old) stage so much. "Double Crown" fits Summer splendidly. Her baby goes with her everywhere. She's been an eating champ the last few weeks, which if you know us well, you know how hard her eating has been. She still nurses to sleep in my arms. And the sounds of my two loving and laughing is my heaven. I've felt, especially, recently a powerful force of love for these two... that my life is spent in and on theirs *so much.* That I can never be separated from my deep love for them. I'm enjoying motherhood very much, and so amazed at how there is grace for each new struggle. And grace to see each new wonder of daily life with them. Picking noses, cleaning them, planning for trips, watching them sleep, loading and unloading the stroller, being there when they fall apart, being there when they do *such* a good job. It's all so holy. Such an honor.
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  • The bond these two have is stunning. It reminds me more of what I've heard twins describe... "a next level connection." I had 'wanted' to have kids super close together (like 18 months apart) because it felt like that would almost ensure a special closeness. When these two were almost three years apart I wondered if that would impact their connection. Gosh, it surely did not. They are "their best" for each other. He is SUCH a loving big brother, and she is never kinder or more sensitive than when it involves him. He's so patient with her "spark," and she's so obsessed with all he does. And they just spend so much more time laughing than bickering. I'm grateful!
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  • Speaking of spark, this is one of my favorite Summer moments yet. A couple times a week I take the kids to the beach after I pick Rue up from school. It's our little tradition. For whatever reason, as we were leaving and Summer saw me carrying the beach bag, she INSISTED on carrying my purse for me. "JoJo do it!" It was filled pretty well, and just a bit too heavy for her. "But she persisted!" It took us ten minutes to take the normal one minute walk, her stopping every few steps to adjust, heave, wobble wobble wobble, drop, adjust, heave....! I encouraged her the whole way, offered to help (and was shot down), and listened to her groan and announce "Strong!" "Heavy!" "Oh no!" "Heaaaavvvy!" It's in these moments I have such vision for the woman she will be. Her strength scares me, I'd be lying to say it didn't. But it also *genuinely* inspires me. She puts her head down and does it. Caleb and I use the phrase "raising wildfire" and "taming a wild mustang" often.  We pray we embolden and stabilize her well, because she has so much to offer with such beautiful strength.
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Week Two

  • My besties and their boys came to Florida! A special six days of being "face to face," wigging out over foggy beaches, long late nights, Drawful, Old Fashioned's and wine, St. Petersburg, "Don SAY-sar!", a special exhibit at the fine art museum of original Star Wars costumes for my Star Warriors, a natural skin care "spa night", re-telling the same favorite stories, and discovering new things about each other. Will be a highlight of the year, I know. Love and miss you both. Let's meet in Minne next!
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Week Three

  • We were invited for a little "staycation" up the road in Orlando with our dear Shorey/Baxter friends! Three generations of connection and sweetness... all the adults are such close friends, and the kids got along preciously. We are all enormous Disney fans, but they've grown quite a love for Universal Studios and it was meaningful to us to be able to visit with them for our first time ever (that Harry Potter area....! My word!!) Truly happy days (even when we all got the stomach flu!)
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Week Four

  • To make a great thing even better, we had the joy of inviting the Shorey/Baxter bunch to our place for another leg of the trip. Hosting and "having people in my home" is one of my favorite things (even though I don't possess many of the skills generally considered to be hospitable ones...! I still love it, and love that even through weakness people are truly welcome). We got to have a big "dinner for 18" their first evening, and our close friends, the Ahlgren's, joined us! Then lots of beach, Tarpon Sponge Docks, Hellas and Greek food, stroller jaunts, sangria, and conversation. "Practically perfect in every way!"
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