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.

oh, canada.

back on the road with L&TO. kind of.

they're currently on tour in canada, but i'm not with them; i only helped them get there. because, do you know how long it takes to drive from nashville to winnipeg? or, then, from winnipeg to edmonton? me neither, but it takes a lot of hours – and also a lot of effort and patience and tag-teaming with two small children in tow.

we made our way to winnipeg first and spent a few off days in their hometown. they stayed with jodi's mom and i stayed with chris' cousin and her family, which meant my off days were true off days. like i didn't even see M for three days, off.

this was my second time in canada, but the first time i've stayed longer than 18 hours. i think i got a little bit more of a real canadian experience this time.

the first day, i woke up to a winter wonderland. they got something like two feet of snow overnight and into that morning. but things carried on as usual. because, canada.

at dinner the night before, as we talked about how much snow they were supposed to get, i shared how nashville got three inches of snow recently and schools were closed for four days. J, who is in high school, responded by telling me he's never missed a day of school for snow before. snow days are just not a thing in winnipeg. i asked how much snow it would take for it to make a difference and they all paused and looked at each other. then, finally, "it's really just a matter of getting out of your driveway."

so basically, their only delay is how long it takes for them to shovel their cars out.

i grew up in connecticut, so i'm not unfamiliar with the snow shovel life. i used to drive in snow and on roads that weren't completely clear. but even then, we always had a handful of snow days each year. sometimes the state would shut down and the governor would recommend that everyone stay off the roads. in new england, we chuckle at the southerners who think rain is a legitimate reason to stay home and marvel at how a few inches (granted, with even fewer snow plows) is enough to slow an entire city to a stop – or cause much chaos, if it doesn't.

in winnipeg, i experienced a whole other level of keeping-on, even with a significant amount of snowfall. they cleared their driveway and the kids went to school, the dad went to work, and the mom brought the dog to the vet. not letting the snow impact them at all is a source of pride for them, or so i'm told.

i hopped in the car on the way to the vet and was dropped off at a local coffee shop.

generally, i enjoy a good snow day for the way they're so cozy. snow days are for staying in your pjs, wrapping yourself in a blanket, and drinking hot chocolate while you read a good book. they are for baking cookies and sitting in front of a large window (inside, where it's warm) and soaking in the beauty that is bare trees coated in fresh, white snow – while you eat warm and gooey cookies straight out of the oven. they are for saying no to things – things you wouldn't ordinarily be able to put on hold – simply because it's a snow day.

snow days are the closest i've ever come to experiencing the world (or, my world) hitting a collective pause button. the way everything stops for the holidays, except without the pressure of hosting and cooking. you get to be in your own space, making your own choices, and everyone is on the same page. it feels like taking a deep breath.

except no one stops in winnipeg, so i didn't either. i put on real clothes, layered up, and went out. i walked through a snow bank and on slushy sidewalks and let snowflakes melt into my hair as they fell. i didn't hate it, although probably because i already had the day off. i didn't need extra time or extra rest. i wanted to adventure instead.

different day. same coffee shop.

i got dropped off in the morning and spent a few hours writing at the coffee shop before walking down this same street to a bakery that smelled so heavenly i didn't even think about snapping a photo of all the treats behind the glass. i walked home from there, since i didn't have a ride and it was close enough to walk.

the day before, i took in the beauty of the fresh, white snow and the houses of all different shapes and sizes and colors as we drove to and from the coffee shop. on this day, my eyes were glued to the ground as i focused on each step, making sure i didn't slip or fall. the sidewalks were clear, but "clear" in winnipeg means a few inches of packed snow and ice, like the ground is simply an extra layer or two thicker and, at any given point, you could hit a slippery spot.

on my final morning in winnipeg, i decided to mix it up and walk to a nearby tim horton's because, when in canada.

it was six degrees (fahrenheit) as i walked, about 15 minutes each way. which isn't the worst situation to be in, especially considering how incredibly flat it is there, but if you know me at all, you know that's not a situation you're likely to find me in. freezing cold? wearing layers (upon layers) of clothing? being outside? any form of exercise? no and no and no and no.

but i did it for the timbits. willfreeze4timbits.

later, we drove to edmonton, where they'd be starting their tour. with an impromptu stop at a tire shop the next morning, we finally made it just after noon. after a relaxing three days off, the next couple days felt like a sprint – but a sprint to the finish line, because i flew back to nashville (my first international flight! and lol at my not knowing when i did and did not need my passport at the airport) on the afternoon of their first show day.

about the christmas tour.

the fall tour ended just before thanksgiving and the christmas tour (with mark schultz) picked up the week after. this tour wasn't as extensive. we were out three days the first weekend, two days the second weekend, and the third weekend was one day out and one day at home (for M and me, at least).

12/01 otisville, MI | 12/02 waukesha, WI | 12/03 massillon, OH | 12/09 perry hall, MD | 12/10 mount vernon, OH | 12/15 milan, TN

a few snapshots.

1. we were on mark's tour bus for this tour (as opposed to L&TO's mini bus, which we were on for the fall tour, which has bunks but no bathroom) and that felt like a treat. partly because there was a bathroom, mostly because there was THE HALLMARK CHANNEL. and every night, i'd get back on the bus and put M to bed just in time for the 8pm movie to start.

it's also worth mentioning that i learned how to watch football, and watched an entire second half of a game, on that tv. which probably sounds insignificant, but i'm not kidding when i say i don't watch sports (other than soccer). you may find me staring at the screen during a game, but i'm never actually paying attention because i don't understand what i'm looking at. especially in football, when only like 3% of the time is actual play time.

2. i found dress up clothes for M and he wore that jacket all day like he was the real fire chief.

3. the snow (and the construction vehicles right outside the bus !!) were in maryland. i remember that insignificant detail very specifically for some reason. i also remember that we had a runner bring us to ikea, where jodi bought a fake tree and a bath towel – which are random and hilarious purchases when you consider that all of our personal items have to go in our bunks with us.

4. i don't know why i took that mirror selfie, but i'm glad i did because it's the only photo i have to document this hotel in mount vernon, OH (noted because i want to go back) that was straight out of a hallmark movie. unfortunately, i have no photos of the grand staircase, beautiful chandeliers, fully decorated christmas trees, fireplaces, and victorian style furniture in the lobby. not to mention that we happened to be there when they were passing out freshly baked chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. still warm and gooey. my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

5. i snapped this photo of M, linking arms with me, because we weren't friends in the beginning. i didn't know his rhythm and he didn't know me as one of his people. but by the end, we were best buds and him reaching over to link arms is one way to measure how far we've come.
 

^ this really is just a snapshot of what the christmas tour was. it felt like a whirlwind almost, for the way it was only a handful of dates mixed in with being home and christmas shopping and getting things done. december always goes by so quickly.

because we were on the bus with the whole tour, our routines were different. we didn't go to coffee shops every day, but we did have access to a hotel room every day. it was too cold to walk or explore outside the venues, but they were all churches with nurseries – and by this point, M was pretty used to having "play time" during set up, when he would play the drums on stage, anyway. i also got to know the rest of the people on this tour more than the last one because we were on the same bus, and because M napped on the bus (instead of in a pack 'n play we'd bring into venues on the fall tour). and you'd better believe i introduced every one of my new bus friends to the magic that is hallmark christmas movies, because obviously.

M and i stayed home for the last show because, well, i had tickets to see needtobreathe on that same day, so i had already told them i couldn't be out. but it worked perfectly for me to keep M and get a babysitter (lol) while i was at the show, especially since he was under the weather with a not-yet-diagnosed double ear infection.

we ended the run with a bang, is what i'm saying. and lots of snuggles.

ROOTD tour | here's what i remember.

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here is what you maybe didn't know. after having a month and a half off in between jobs, i went back on the road as a tour nanny. ("back" because this isn't my first tour.) this time, with love & the outcome and their two boys – M, 19 months, and Z, 5 weeks.

for the fall, we were out on the rise out of the dark tour, with danny gokey (promoting his new album, rise) and mandisa (promoting her new album, out of the dark). this tour consisted of four shows each weekend, from thursday to sunday, which meant we were out every wednesday night and back every monday morning.

i had the best intentions about writing weekly recaps, but here we are. all at once.


the places i went & some snapshots from along the way.

001/008: september 28 – october 1

raytown (kansas city), MO | allen (dallas), TX | sugarland (houston), TX | shreveport, LA

the first one. jodi's mom was with us this weekend. "us," being chris and jodi (love & the outcome, aka mom and dad), their tour manager, and me. they have their own mini-bus (pictured later), so this was our crew, on our own bus.

it was their first time on the road with two babies and a full-time nanny. Z was only five weeks old and other than a handful of hours with M beforehand, we hadn't spent much time together. (read: i was not one of his people yet.)

the weekend went pretty amazingly, especially considering the circumstances. it could've been a hot mess, but having jodi's mom as extra hands (and another familiar face for M) was what, i think, kept us afloat.

i got home from this weekend feeling incredibly thankful for this job, for the way our personalities and sense of humor seem to match up just right, for the adventure of touring, and for the way i had some consistency – same family, same routines – mixed with some daily change – new city, new venue. i didn't forget how much i loved being on the road, but i didn't realize how much i'd missed it.
 

002/008: october 5 – october 8

kingsport, TN | leesburg, FL | charleston, SC | (charlotte) greensboro, NC

the one with the fly date and the bonus stop in charlotte. M stayed home with jodi's mom for this run because we had a fly date that was separate (a previous commitment) from the tour, and it was decided that having M sit this one out would be best for everyone. it mostly felt weird not having him there (especially considering my job was, primarily, to be with him), but after flying to florida on friday morning for a show that night and sleeping a quick 3 hours before hopping on a 6am flight on saturday morning, i realized exactly why it was best to not have M in tow.

the whole weekend, i kept wondering about how it had all worked out – somewhat unintentionally – that i was on the road with Z while jodi's mom was at home with M. it would be a few weeks before i realized how helpful it was to have this time with him, alone. for the following five weeks i'd be on the road with M, my time with Z would be shared time. having a weekend where i learned how to sooth him, how he likes to be held, how to wear him in the ergo (i've never worn a baby before!) was so helpful in times when i needed to move quickly to give him what he wanted while also keeping up with M.

it feels strange to say, because M wasn't with us, but this weekend was one of my favorites. because we had our own mini-bus with the ability to travel on our own terms, we often stopped somewhere before arriving at the venue. on saturday morning, we went straight for the water in charleston, SC. each day, they'd try to have some "family time" or a day date, so these mornings usually meant i got to explore new cities by myself. in charleston, with a sleeing Z in tow, i got to walk up and down the most beautiful streets. it was so hot, even at the beginning of october, but i loved every minute of it.

on sunday morning, i woke up in a parking lot in charlotte. this was confusing for two reasons: one) we weren't supposed to be in charlotte, and two) we always stopped somewhere with a bathroom because the mini-bus doesn't have one. it turns out, chris surprised jodi by telling our bus driver to take us to 7th street public market because it's her favorite coffee spot (not just coffee). it was also a great surprise for me to wake up in the city where my people are. T and luca were able to drop what they were doing and come meet us for a couple hours. to this day, he still asks about my "friends."
 

003/008: october 12 – october 15

morgantown, WV | (detroit) township, MI | botkins, OH | (chicago) rockford, IL

the one where we went to chicago. i remember nothing else about this weekend except that we went to chicago. i've never been to chicago, but i've heard such great things. i only had a couple hours, but it was incredible. i drank intelligentsia coffee and took a thousand pictures of the bean and it didn't rain like it was supposed to. my friend tab is from that area, so i texted her my thoughts. as cold as it was, and as much as i hate being cold, i loved it.

the other thing about this weekend was that my roommate (also a nanny) had the weekend off and came out on the road with danny's older two kids. that was extra fun, for M and for me. it still makes me laugh to remember we brought two small children (because M was with his parents) to an antiques shop for fun, but it was right across the street and beggars (nannies) can't be choosers when it comes to finding activities for little kids on the road. in that last photo, i'm posing with the scarecrow in an attempt to show little danny how much fun it would be. (it didn't work.)
 

004/008: october 19 – october 22

texarkana, TX | lafayette, LA | austin, TX | springdale, AR

the one with voodoo doughnuts. again, with the new city and alone time (because family time) to explore. we always stop at a coffee shop first (houndstooth) and then part ways from there, meeting up after an hour or two. they went south to find a park, i went north to find doughnuts. y'all, i've heard about voodoo doughnuts but didn't know there was one in austin! obviously, i got the oreo.

the only other thing i remember about this weekend was that sunday was the worst day of the whole tour. the venue was a high school and our green room was a classroom. catering was in the smallest room (in a classroom and not a cafeteria) and i got suck in there after dinner, with both kids, as the tour gathered for nightly devotions. i won't list out all the ways the day went wrong, but i will say that touring with two kids, with both parents in the band, is challenging. some days you overcome those challenges and everyone is happy, and some days you make the wrong choices and almost everyone ends up crying at one point (or a lot of points, if you're M).
 

005/008: [i skipped tour and went to charlotte for my birthday.]
 

006/008: november 2 – november 5

akron, OH | fairfield, OH | richmond, KY | knoxville, TN

the one with the children's museum. some days you're across the street from an antique shop and some days you're across the street from a children's museum. yes and amen.

i can't remember exactly, but i think this was the weekend M started waving goodbye and blowing kisses to his parents as i stepped off the bus with him in the morning. up until that point, he always cried when i took him away. he was fine, but it's fun for no one when the transition includes tears.

in knoxville, we stopped at remedy coffee, next to makers donuts, and parked basically in a tree (literally having to move some branches to get in and out of the bus), next to the most beautiful cemetary i've ever seen. later, we stopped by target to browse the new hearth & hand section. because, priorities.
 

007/008: november 9 – november 12

paducah, KY | grove city (columbus), OH | bensalem (philadelphia), PA | mcmurray (pittsburgh), PA

the one with the tiny donuts. i can't remember anything about this weekend, except the donut shop (peace, love, and little donuts) had tiny donuts. i don't even remember what coffee shop that was. these are things you think you will just always remember (especially because you took a photo of the coffee!) so you don't write them down. but then you forget because that's how life works.

also, including that nice selfie to document what it looks like to get up in the middle of the night, put on layers and a scarf and shoes, hop off the bus, and to run into a gas station bathroom to pee. tour life is not glamorous, y'all. (also documenting to compare/contrast with the bathroom selfies i took while on tour – not in the middle of the night – with drew and ellie holcomb in 2013.)
 

008/008: november 16 – november 19

richmond, VA | salisbury, MD | (washington, DC) woodbridge, VA | bel air, MD

the one with the capitol. our last weekend of the fall tour, and this was the first weekend i truly never knew where i was. we kept switching back and forth between maryland and virginia and, one morning, we were in d.c. it was a great last weekend, but i think we were all ready to be home. M kept his blanket and paci on him at all times, instead of just when he slept, and i didn't blame him for clinging to his comfort things. i wanted mine too.

the only other time i went to d.c. was on the getty christmas tour and i did not leave the venue the entire day. it rained, but they'd also just done all the touristy things on their fall tour so it wasn't a priority. plus, we were not within walking distance. i was thrilled, this time, that they wanted to walk a block or two to the capitol building, where you can also see the washington monument from afar. on our way back, we were in a hurry, but we stopped in to the library of congress to use the bathroom. literally, we waited in line and went through metal detectors and it was the most i've ever done for a bathroom. but it was neat to at least walk through there (obviously thinking about national treasure the whole time).

also, artifact coffee. i remember that one.

while it was still the fall tour, some places were setting up for christmas. we saw a few trees with lights ("ights!" M always pointed them out) and shiny ornaments that, thankfully, he would only touch with his pointer finger. and Z, every night without fail, he would start out fussy (because mama was on stage when he felt like eating), but i would wear him and he would eventually fall asleep as long as i kept bouncing. and every night, i would be thankful for that second weekend of tour, when i learned how to do that.
 

and then, that was it. just in time for thanksgiving. cheers to you if you've made it this far.


p.s. i don't post baby names and faces, but they aren't a secret on the L&TO instagram, if you're curious.