Going Home Is Good for the Soul

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On Monday night, I was a pretty good mess. After I posted this, I had some issues arise and some talking, and I went to bed in tears a little worried I’d offended people I love. While I realize the post was certainly triggering for some, I was simply trying to make the point that just because we’ve done something one way for a long time doesn’t make it the right way.

(And if you have issue with it, I would much rather you talk to me to my own face, phone, text, or email rather than to other people. Ahem.)

But we had plans to visit old friends in Richmond, Virginia, the city where I grew up, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I was determined to enjoy those friends without concerning myself too much about something I couldn’t change.

me and Emily

We left early Tuesday from my parents’ house in Greensboro, NC, my husband and me and our three kidlets, only one of whom had ever been to Richmond. And that was when Libbie was just five months old and I flew out with her for my friend’s brother’s funeral.

We went to the home of my friend Emily. We were summer missionaries together the summer after our freshman year of college, and the two of us were peas in a pod: romantic, goofy, ready to fall in love and get married and have kids. We did. And this was the first time our kids have ever met, even though our daughters (who are only 10 days apart in age) are nearly 7 years old.

After our lunch-and-playdate where Libbie and Lily Grace quickly bonded, we went on to the University of Richmond, my and my husband’s alma mater. We walked around campus, visited some of my husband’s old professors, made a stop in the bookstore (where I worked all four years of college!), and visited the memorial bench for our friend Mike. It was humid and we all sweat like crazy, but for me it felt a little cathartic to visit after so many years. Even though there have been many changes since we graduated in 2004, the Great Hall where my English professors’ offices are still smells the same. The bookstore accounts manager remembered me and was so kind to my family. I was flooded with memories of picnics and concerts and dorm rooms and staring at stars. It was much-needed.

Mike's bench

Then we went to my friend Jen’s parents’ home, where I spent at least half my time during high school. It was refreshing to still be a “refrigerator friend” and so fun to see my kids hanging out with her 3-year-old twin boys. We went out to dinner, talked a long time, and my family spent the night.

Jen and Jessie

We took a driving tour this morning of the small part of town where my church and house were and where I went to elementary and middle school. Unlike the last few times I’ve been to Richmond, I didn’t feel lost or immediately like a 16-year-old again. I felt comforted in the sweetness of old friendships that have expanded and multiplied through children. It was just the tenderness and love for me, my whole self, from those who knew me in my teens, that I needed.

my childhood home

And even though my parents don’t live there, it felt a lot like home.



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I can’t escape it, the pressing need to write. It haunts my head as I narrate my own life. I’ve always done this, as long as I can remember, and I wonder what other people think who don’t feel like a character in a lifelong novel.

Under the Pier
source: Scott McCracken

“It’s still a billion degrees outside, but she sits anyway, watching the couple on a tandem bike ride by two, three times, as they attempt to navigate a folded-out map. The people-watching is worth the intense, muggy heat. Even this close to the ocean, no breeze eases the intensity of the Southern humidity.

“Without children to mind and care for, her brain only gravitates toward reading and writing and prayer. And let’s face it, the prayers don’t seem as close to her lips when she’s not buried under the parenting pressure. What did they do, she wonders, before kids? But the children, they do bring God closer and increase the need of Him, it seems. ‘Multiply,’ He said, and she thinks maybe this is why.

“The crickets – tree frogs? – are a soft hum of noise, and she tries, hard, to convince herself to let out a deep breath and relax. It seems relaxation does not come as easy as it once did.”

There’s your dip for today into my thought-life. I’m on an island with just my husband, tucked away in a cottage, to enjoy a few days celebrating our 10th anniversary this summer. It’s strange and blissful and I’m trying not to worry about the kids.

Happy Sunday!

Vacation and a Wedding

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Despite the crazy circumstances leading up to our vacation/wedding trip to the Outer Banks, I think I can file it away in my memory as pretty fabulous.

I got to see my little ones see the ocean for the first time, to dip their toes in the water and dig up sand with their hands and shovels. Libbie got great kicks out of waiting by the water until the wave rolled in and then scurrying away from it up the beach. Her leg muscles are obviously in much better shape than mine!

I always enjoy seeing my parents and my sister love on the kiddos. The kids love it, too! They adore Nana, Poppy, and “Ashy-Roo.”

I was amazed at how much Libbie loved exploring the historical Roanoke Island site we went to. I wasn’t sure I would be able to drag her off the ship!

And to top it off, I got to be in the wedding of my very best friend, my soul sister, and get reacquainted with friends from college. We’ve vowed to not let it be so long between visits the next time!

Somehow, I have no pictures of me in my bridesmaid’s dress! I thought it was quite pretty and I loved my hair and make-up.

This week we’ve been in recovery mode, I think, from all the travel and moving. I am flat-out exhausted. As soon as I pull this apartment into shape, though, I’ll share pictures – especially of Libbie’s precious pink butterfly room.

Doing Disney with a Toddler and Baby: Animal Kingdom

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If You Missed It – Doing Disney with a Toddler and Baby: The Magic Kingdom 

(Also, if you are visiting, at the time of our Disney visit my son, David, was 6 months and my daughter, Libbie, was 32 months.)

Tree of Life

Day 2 of our trip was spent at the Animal Kingdom, which is notoriously hot for some reason. Perhaps lack of good shade and/or indoor rides? Who knows. Honestly, there is not a ton at Animal Kingdom and we didn’t do THAT much. We all opted to go home in the afternoon and hang out at the pool at our rental house.

All of us except my husband and the kids had seen most of Animal Kingdom already; I had seen it in 2002, before Asia was done. The only thing I REALLY wanted to ride was Expedition Everest, and I did – twice!

Animal Kingdom with a Baby and a (Fearful) Toddler

Expedition Everest: The grown-ups took turn riding this back-to-back while my mom and dad took turns taking Libbie to look at animals and to Dinoland USA. It rocks. It’s not for little kids, though!

TriceraTop Spin: Speaking of Dinoland USA … Libbie thought this was the be-all, end-all of all awesomeness. It’s pretty much Dumbo with dinosaurs. My mom took Libbie AND David on it twice (with David in her lap) and my sister took Libbie once. She would have rode it a zillion more times.

DINOSAUR: Back in the land of dinos is the ride called DINOSAUR. No, I don’t know why it’s in all caps. This is also bigger kids-only. We decided to test out the Baby Swap method. I highly recommend doing baby swap + fast passes for the ideal ride. We all had fast passes for a certain time. We went and told them we wanted to do the Baby Swap. They give you a ticket that is good for three adults to go through the fastpass lane. So the first time around, three of our adults went through on Fastpass. Then for the second ride, four adults went through using the baby swap ticket and one Fastpass. (We actually only used four Fastpasses even though we had five in this situation.)

I still hid my eyes for most of DINOSAUR. I am a wimp. Recommended for those older than 29 … or who like to be scared more than I do.

David at Animal Kingdom in Bucket Hat

Finding Nemo—The Musical: My sister is in love with this show, so she was insistent we go. It was nice and cool, and we all enjoyed the show. It really does fill up pretty fast; I think they start the lines 45 minutes prior to the show. We got there about 25 minutes before the show, I think, and found fine seats. Libbie fell asleep quickly and slept through the whole show except the last 3 minutes! David nursed and then watched intently. He loves the music and colors!

Kilimanjaro Safari: The “story” they try to play out on the safari is completely superfluous, but the actual trek through the savanna and seeing all the animals is pretty awesome. It is really bumpy; I might have been afraid if David were any smaller, just about him getting jostled around like that. Libbie hated all the bumps and screamed every time we were moving. (Granted, she was also very hot and tired at this point.)

Camp Minnie-Mickey: This is one of the best places at Disney to meet characters, and the only place we attempted it with our kids. Libbie had in the past been hysterical when faced with big characters in costume. While she was not hysterical, she didn’t really want to take pictures with any of the characters. The lines there are shaded and not too lengthy, so if you want to meet characters I definitely recommend trying to do it at Animal Kingdom.

Meeting Minnie

Libbie was beat, so we skipped out on some of the other attractions. We were pretty sure It’s Tough to Be a Bug would freak her out. We had hoped to see The Lion King show, but again, we were too tired and HOT. Oh well!

We ate lunch at Yak and Yeti Restaurant. Ah, the privileges of going to Disney with Nana and Poppy! It was wonderful to get out of the heat for a while.

Some of the dishes were really good: I had awesome Tempura Shrimp, my mom had the Maple-Tamarind Chicken, and I think my dad liked his Lo-Mein. My sister had some sort of appetizer platter that doesn’t appear to be on the menu any longer, and she wasn’t a fan. Mr. V says his Sweet and Sour Chicken was just OK.

Libbie shared my dad’s Lo-Mein and all the soup “crunchies” we would let her eat. They do have burgers and chicken bites on the kids’ menu if your kids are anti-Asian food or something! We eat Chinese food often so Libbie is pretty acclimated to it.

At Animal Kingdom, I nursed David in the middle of Dino-Land USA (HOT but he was starving), in Finding Nemo (nice, cool, and dark!), and at Yak and Yeti (cool at least). You gotta do what you gotta do!

I’ll be continuing this series with EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, but next we’ll talk about Universal Studios: Island of Adventure! Stay tuned … you might want to subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any of these posts if you’re planning a future trip to Florida.

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"Home is a place in the mind"

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Here is what I learned about trying to go home again.

Even if you spent thirteen years in a city, you won’t remember how to get to the most familiar places. It is a devastating feeling.

Almost as depressing as the fact that they turned the landmark, beloved, local grocery-store chain into a Big Box Grocery. (Rest in peace, Ukrop’s. I will forever mourn you.)

You will still spend your time dreading seeing someone you don’t really want to talk to but have to.

Way too many high-school feelings and memories will come flooding back.


The things that were good–church family, Joe’s Inn, the Byrd Theatre–will still be good. There are certain friends you’ll always have something to talk about with. You’ll cry when your best friend from high school looks so unbelievably gorgeous and happy in her wedding dress.

You’ll remember you aren’t the same person you were 10 years ago, and that’s a good thing. Very good.

And while you are gone, your daughter will try to learn to take over the world.


So, can you go home again? 

(Here I am talking about Richmond, which is where I grew up. Really, I don’t know where home is. I explain that a little in this post.)

Title quote from Maeve Brennan, The Visitor


Things I Love Thursday: Online Friends

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You want to know something really fun?

Friday night I am leaving the hubby and the girl here, driving 2 hours, and staying the night with Amanda–yes, THAT Amanda. We’ve met several times in real life (two years of Blissdom) but have never been able to spend that much one-on-one time since there have been so many other people to meet.

Then–oh then–on Saturday afternoon we are going to get together with Bee from Will Blog for Shoes and Candance from Twiggie Makes, whom I have never met. I’m not sure I could be any more excited.

Gorgeous Amanda (front) with someone I don’t know. Photo by Mishelle Lane.

Even a year ago, I might have laughed at the prospect of going on a road trip to meet blogging friends–and staying at one of their homes! Despite the fact that Amanda and I have been reading each others’ blogs “forever,” it’s just been over the past few months that I feel like we have grown very close. A lot of it is my constant solicitation for parenting advice. She is a former children’s minister and has a plethora of amazing advice and the reason why she believes a certain thing. I will be the first to admit that I’m just making it up as I go along most of the time. I need the help!!

I had this discussion at Blissdom or immediately after about those bloggers who live for blog conferences. That’s when they see their friends. This is not the kind of blogger I want to be, ever. Trust me–you need friends you can see face-to-face. You need to remove yourself from the computer OFTEN and live real life!

But there is a special blessing in online friends. I’ve known this since I was a high-schooler and found myself in a community of Hanson lovers. We communicated through guest books. Awesome.

I’ve always been able to explain myself better through writing than speaking. (Hence, blogging.) There is something about speaking face-to-face and hearing someone’s voice–but there is also something about being able to write out what you feel without struggling through tears to put the words together.

Especially in the past few months, I’ve clung to my online “sisterchicks.” I can only call the same two people to hang out with in Chattanooga so many times before I start to be clingy! Everything’s been a whirlwind of emotions and it’s so helpful to have those women to talk through situations with before I bombard my husband with a flurry of nonsensical verbiage and gasping tears.

All friendships are precious. I’ve realized the true gem of some of my online friends in recent months, and for that I am thankful.

Added to Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries.