pawleys island / family vacation, 2018

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this is the year my family reinstated the annual beach vacation.

as the youngest of four, this tradition started before i was old enough to remember it. (maybe even before i was born?) and then, we stopped going before i was old enough to have more than a handful of vivid memories. (or maybe i just have a bad memory?) either way, what i have are a lot of bits and pieces. snapshots of being held in the ocean, jumping waves, shouting OVER OR UNDER? as a big wave approached, "catching a sun tan," my mom dutifully coating my skin with sunscreen at regular intervals, looking for crabs, walking on the big rocks, the way the floors of our beach house always got sandy by the end of the day, hearing "fresh baked dooooughnuts" sang in the mornings, playing card games, shopping at those beach stores with candy and cheap toys. my first memory of writing in a diary, feeling the need to put words on the page before i knew how to spell them, took place at the beach.

thankfully, i have used some of my unemployed free time to scan all my photos so i have these gems to share with you. sometimes my beach memories come from stories i've heard or photos i have (like that one with my mom, who is the real MVP for taking four little kids to the beach for an entire week) and sometimes i remember that exact moment, like where i'm sitting next to my dad and smiling so proudly because i was just so thrilled to be sitting right there next to him.

these beach vacations have a special place in my heart, for two reasons mostly. one, because my family was all together. which, i know that my dad would bring us and pick us up and go back home to work during the week, but most of my beach memories include him. and two, because i love the beach.

i don't remember when or why, but we stopped taking week-long beach vacations. we lived in connecticut and have family in florida, so we kept up with beach days and short trips here and there, but now there have been entire summers that pass where i don't see the ocean and i can't even explain how unfathomable – yet true – that is for me.

we've been talking about picking up our old tradition again, but the details of how and when and where were all too much to nail down. this year, we decided to just go for it. it was only my parents, T and her family, and me who were able to make the trip, but we did it. and we'll do it again next year, and the year after that, and each year we will get better at planning and coordinating and prioritizing.

as much as it felt good to be at the beach again, it also felt good to just be doing the thing we've been talking about for so long.

it felt kind of strange to take a vacation when i'm not really working consistently and my whole life kind of feels like a vacation, in that i'm mostly making it up as i go. but there is a difference between everyday life and vacation. (at least for me, sans kids.) i have a lot of free time and i leave town a lot, but that's not a vacation.

i didn't open my laptop this week. i didn't read. i didn't think about any of the side projects i've been working on. i let myself rest in a way i didn't realize i hadn't been doing.

i listened to a podcast recently that talked about the way swapping out "but" for "and" makes a significant difference in a sentence. a "but" takes a negative turn, while "and" keeps you on the same level. two things, at the same time. the example was actually about rain on a vacation, and it's exactly how i feel about our week at the beach.

we went on vacation and it rained. my mom, T, and i discussed it at lunch one day and we agreed that the rain wasn't the huge disappointment that we were tempted to feel it was. getting completely rained out on our last morning at the beach did feel a bit like our words were being thrown back at us, but i still maintain that it was a good week of vacation. no but's.

we didn't spend all day, every day at the beach, the way we used to do it – the way we all kind of expected it would be, i think. the rain slowed us down, but in ways we didn't realize we needed.

it didn't rain the whole week. we did get some solid beach time, with sunny blue skies, on multiple days. God knew we needed the sunshine too. i can't speak for anyone else, but the rain and the constant 100% rain in the forecast each day helped me appreciate the sunny blue skies all the more. my weather app said rain, but i believed for sunshine. and when the rain not only stayed away, but the sun shone, i felt all the more thankful.

the truth is, God cares about these details, but even more so, He cares about us. He knows what we need. He knows how to give it to us. it's taken a lot of practice for me to see what's in front of me as provision, even if it doesn't look like i thought it would. even if it looks like nothing. even if it looks like rain. it takes a lot of trust to see that what's been given to me is important, that one day i will look back on it and understand that while i may not have chosen it, i am thankful for where it's brought me.

i would not have chosen to start the week sick. i would not have chosen rain. and yet, i am thankful for all the ways this week played out.

we took a lot of photos. a LOT. my dad always rolls his eyes at our photos. he never wants to be in them, leaning out of the frame and making comments like, "you got a photo of me at easter; why do you need another one?" i'm pretty sure he's suggested only taking one photo of him per year. but as i upload all these photos we took, and include some from beach trips from when i was little, i can't help but see the generational parallel. i wonder if luca and jack will grow up and be thankful we took these the way i'm thankful i have those ones from my childhood.

photos, candids or not, carry a memory. choosing to snap a photo, in the moment, is something you're doing now that you will want later. my dad never wants the "now" part, and maybe he doesn't care to ever look back on things either, but i treasure photos for the way they help me remember. whether it's photos from a beach vacation we took when i was too little to hold the memory, or from my visit to charlotte – just last month – that i've already forgotten pieces of, i'm thankful i have something that says, remember this?

i want to remember this beach trip. i want to remember how we picked up this old tradition again, even if we fail to do it next year. i want to remember walking on the beach with my dad that first night, the way he loves that fluorescent yellow shirt from his old job so much that he included it while packing for the week. i want to remember sitting in the sand with luca and jack and building a sandcastle. i want to remember how jack helps me grind my coffee beans, how lee carried all the things, how luca kept wanting to use the boogie board as a surf board. i want to remember how jack sat in his hair, wore his sunglasses, blew his own nose, and preferred to not have his feet touch the sand. i want to remember how luca played in the sand, sat at the water's edge, walked in the "rivers" and caught a fish, and always let the waves move him. i want to remember how peaceful my mom looks when she's sitting on the beach or standing in the ocean, how my dad stayed with us for hours and wasn't ready to go – with socks and sneakers on – after only thirty minutes. i want to remember playing bananagrams with mom and T, sitting on the patio having important conversations, and painting their nails with the nail polish my mom bought to replace the one i bought and immediately dropped and broke. i want to remember the blue skies, how i taught my dad to make coffee in a french press, and walking on the beach with mom and T on our last night.

it was such a good trip. it didn't play out the way i thought it would, but it was exactly everything i needed.

charlotte / because i want you and i love you.

a few nights before his birthday, i was facetiming with luca before he went to sleep and we were talking about how i would be flying in and out, just for his birthday. "yeah," he said. "because i want you, and i love you."

one of my favorite parts about watching him grow up is hearing how he articulates things. the words he chooses to communicate how he feels is never how i'd think to phrase it, but it's always exactly what it feels like. that is exactly why i came, because i want you and i love you. but he didn't say it because i felt it; he said it because he felt it.

later, he would say, "you know what i'd want to be in that box?" (referring to his birthday present) "YOU. because i love you so much."

over and over, in different ways, he's saying the same thing: you show up. i love that you show up.

i can't say i'll always be able to visit as frequently, or rearrange my schedule and hop on a plane for a 48-hour trip just to see him on his actual birthday, but ever since he was born and i had to leave for the first time, i made a promise to myself that i would show up, as frequently and as consistently as i could. i wanted him to know he's important, that he's worth showing up for.

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we went to a children's museum. we posed like hyenas (the ones from the lion king – his new favorite) in photos. we ate pancakes for dinner. he had us line up in a particular order to take turns telling him what we love about him (our birthday tradition) while he sat there, wearing the biggest, goofiest grin as he listened.

there are a million things i love about him, but more than anything else, i love that i get to know him. because there is nobody else like him. he makes the whole world brighter. i am always tempted to say, i can't believe it's been so many years – i can't believe he's five. but the truth is, i can't believe i there were so many years before. i can't believe i lived 23 years, not knowing how much more joy i was missing out on.

you are so loved, luca michael goodin. i want you, and i love you.

luca love / five.

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dear luca,

this is you, at five.

you asked me the other day about when you go to sleep tonight. "will i be four or five?” you wanted to know this last year too. will i still be this age when i wake up?

it kind of breaks my heart to say, never again will you be able to say you are four. four was full of planet earth re-enactments, properly pronouncing the “r” in my name, spontaneous worship sessions in the kitchen, and passionately singing "CAAAN you feel the wuv tu-night" on repeat.

i loved you at four. and yet, i know that each new day with you feels like, how did we ever live without this version of you, right now? it felt like that the day i found out you existed, the day you high-fived me from inside the womb, the day i first saw your sweet face. it felt like that yesterday, and i know it’ll feel like that tomorrow.

every day with you has been such a joy and i’m so thankful that even greater things are still to come. i can’t wait to see what five looks like.

happy birthday, luca.

i love you forever.

love always, auntie sarah.


H + lou / nashville looks good on you.

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my sister, H, and her bf, lou, have been trying to make their way to nashville since the fall, but we've had to reschedule like seven times. when the day finally arrived for them to get on the airplane, there were delayed flights and a missed connection and a last-minute change-of-plan road trip from virginia.

but they made it!

H has been here twice before (in 20142016) so she's an old pro, but this was lou's first trip, so we showed him all the things. including what a trip to trader joe's is like, because apparently he's never been. it was not as unpleasant as he imagined it would be, is what he said.

 

day one

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since they ended up getting here in the afternoon, needing a nap and a shower, we kept it low key until we decided to eat dinner (at burger up! obviously) and drive around looking for a spot to see the fireworks without getting stuck in traffic, since it was the fourth of july and nashville is ranked in the top 10 best fireworks in the country, according to some article i saw online a couple years ago (which make it sound so legit, right?). we ended up in a used car dealership parking lot that i pulled into at the last minute, just as the fireworks were starting. we had a pretty decent view, considering.

 

day two

we started in 12 south, my favorite neighborhood. we popped in and out of shops, got espresso from portand brew, a doughnut from five daughters, sandwiches to go from frothy monkey, and stopped at las paletas on our way out because it was hot and that was reason enough. i was hesitant, because we were on our way to eat lunch, but then H said, "we're grown ups. we can make our own choices."

i'm 28 and forever forgetting that i'm the adult who gets to decide if i eat a popsicle before lunch.

from there, we went to bicentennial mall park to have a picnic in the most shaded spot we could find. did i mention it was like, a hundred degrees + humid? we went there for the bells and waited 15 whole minutes for a song to play, which i then did a mini interpretive dance to, at H's request.

we walked around the park, going from one shaded spot to the next, until we reached the end and snapped a quick selflie with the nashville location on the enormous map on the ground before heading straight for the car.

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we went home, took naps and showers, and then went back out to walk up and down lower broadway. on our way there, lou asked if i go downtown often, to which i replied with a quick "no." i thought about explaining before ultimately deciding it would be better to wait. after about three minutes on the street, he looked over and said, "now i get why you don't come here." which is to say, the best thing about downtown is the walking bridge and the view and that's it. the rest is one giant tourist trap.

we stopped at edley's bbq for dinner and then headed home from there.

 

day three

we had slow mornings at home, making coffee and eggs, just the way i like it. on this day, H and lou ventured downtown again, to the johnny cash museum, while i stayed back and worked on some side projects and avoided downtown and the thunderstorm that rolled in just as they pulled out. it worked out, because they still went for it (and got soaked!) and i would not have been up for that adventure.

after they got back, we drove to project 615 and fashionable before shopping at trader joe's and making dinner at home.

we also popped into home depot, where H snapped that lovely photo of lou and i discussing toilet flappers, which i didn't know were a thing until mine broke. lou is the mvp for making it so my toilet could flush without having to stick my hand in the water.

 

day four

we shopped in downtown franklin on this day. which, downtown franklin > downtown nashville. we also stopped at the factory, which i've somehow never been to? from there, we shopped in hillsboro village and ate at double dogs before stopping to see the parthenon in centennial park.

with a 6-something flight the next morning, we called it a day after that.

charlotte / the one where...

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this trip to charlotte was like an episode of friends, with a thousand alternative titles.

the one where T and i woke up early one day to have the most legit photo shoot we've ever had (and we've had our share of photo shoots). more on that later, but in between outfits, i snuck in time with these sleepy, peanut butter-faced babies (who are like, not even babies anymore).

the one where jack started drawing on a magne-doodle and was THRILLED about each new mark he made. luca loves drawing and jack loves luca, so. monkey see; monkey do.

the one where jack was my bff. he followed me around in the mornings. he helped me make my coffee by filling the tea kettle and grinding the beans. he pulled up a chair beside me. he let me put him to bed at night (which, from what i hear, he keeps a pretty strict mama-only policy on that).

the one where J and abby moved to charlotte. !!!

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the one where it was father's day.

the one where my dad smiled appropriately for photos.

the one with the backseat selfies.

the one with the science museum and the tyrannosaurs exhibit.

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the one where jack went ALL IN with the dinosaurs and then couldn't hang for the ride home.

the one with pool day no.1

the one where luca and i brushed our teeth together.

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the one with pool day no.2

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the one where these longtime bffs were reunited as "neighbors."

the one where jack was ...jack.

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charlotte | the best of both worlds.

this weekend seems like a blur. partly because my whole life does right now (how is it almost june??) and partly because i had a sinus infection that hit its peak while i was visiting. on mother's day, in particular.

also partly because i took like, six photos. (and, unless there's a photo reminding me that it happened, i probably won't remember that it did.)

anyway, i arrived on friday, just before dinnertime.

saturday was a full day of soccer in the morning, live streaming abby's graduation in time to see her walk across the stage (!!), and then helping T with a project she's been working on until it was time to go to church.

which, let me just hit pause on our weekend for a second. because one of my favorite things about charlotte – about having family there, visiting so frequently, the city in general – is elevation church.

usually, i keep the conversation focused on my family and how grateful i am that it worked out this way, that T and lee ended up in a place so easily accessible, that my parents followed (and J & A soon, too!). it's never lost on me how blessed i am that i get to have the best of both worlds, that i get to live my life in nashville and also pop over to charlotte once a month to see (most of) my family and watch my nephews grow up. i am in awe of how God worked out those details, solving problems before i even knew they existed.

what i talk about way less frequently is how incredible it is that they ended up in this place, where i have the opportunity to regularly worship at my two favorite churches (the belonging co, in nashville, and elevation church, in charlotte). maybe it's because i've always thought of it as more of a perk of having family in charlotte than one of the divine details of how it all worked out, but i've only just recently realized how much i truly have the best of both worlds – in my family life, and in my church life.

looking back, five or six years ago, i had no idea how much i would need this exact arrangement.

 cleaning crew. (sweeping and mopping with jack reminds me of lawn mowing and leaf blowing with luca, when he was this age.)

cleaning crew. (sweeping and mopping with jack reminds me of lawn mowing and leaf blowing with luca, when he was this age.)

i spent the night at my parents' house on saturday night, as i usually do when i'm in town for mother's day, because i know my mom likes having me there.

we enjoyed a slow morning, with coffee and chocolate covered strawberries and good conversation, and then we all went back to T's to spend the day.

as i mentioned, i don't really remember what happened this day, as i was mostly focused on how to make my face stop hurting. i do remember we had steak for lunch, which is not the greatest option when your sinus pressure is causing teeth and jaw pain.

i survived.

on monday, i was feeling much better as we carried on with pretty typical day-to-day, monday activities.

on monday night, T and lee went to a meeting at luca's new school, so i got to babysit.

luca likes to play "earth II," which involves him reenacting scenes from ...you guessed it, planet earth II, which you can watch on netflix. he has each episode memorized and will list them all out for you to pick which one you want him to do.

here is what happens: you sit in the black chair and watch as he acts out different scenes, moving his body around on all fours (in a way only a 4.5 year old can), climbing on the ottoman and couch, jumping off the ottoman and couch, making the animal noises, and also narrating with an accent like the narrator on the show has.

(also, this doesn't stop in the living room. when he's strapped into his seat in the car, he'll request from the backseat a particular song from the soundtrack, which he also has memorized – and can even tell you approximately in which order the songs go in.)

this is what we did on the night i babysat. jack (who was so tired – tired enough to sit still for an entire half hour) and i sat in the black chair and watched luca play.

later, luca would ask me to have a home date after jack went to bed and i obviously said yes to that, even if it was getting late. we drew hearts on construction paper, wrote our names, and then swapped papers so he has my heart and i have his. we've been on a lot of dates (many of which involved donuts), but this one might be my favorite of them all.

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i drove home on tuesday. always tuesday, so i can be back in time for church.

it's the best.