Life Changes…a true test…

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11 years and 5 weeks ago today, in small town Western, Pa at my childhood home, I married my best friend.  In those 11 years and 5 weeks, I feel like my love for him and for “us” has grown. I have known since the day we married that we balance each other.  He has shown me to relax, slow down, be patient, trust that things happen for a reason, and enjoy life.  I have helped him to see his own strengths, have a plan, and bring urgency when it matters.  See, if we didn’t have that balance, neither of us would be our best.  But with each other, with our balance, we are the best we can be at this place and moment in time.  After now three weeks or so of packing…preparing…planning…organizing…and eliminating, I have come to appreciate our balance even more.  In the worst moments of the last few weeks, we were able to help each other see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And we were able to celebrate and enjoy the memories that the last 11 years (9 in this house) have given us.  In the last few weeks, my best friend and I have had countless hours of packing, lifting, and loading to prepare our belongings for a 1300 mile adventure.  Without my best friend, the last few weeks would have been dreadfully lonely.  The days would have been long.  And the memories would have meant so much less.  Although packing and loading all of our stuff without the help of movers could have been awful, instead, it has been a journey.  And that journey, has been hard and long, but mostly, it has been wonderful.  

Our house, and central Florida, are where our family got its start.  We have raised three little boys in this house, bringing two of them home from the hospital to the cradle their grandpa made just for them.  We moved here when B was just a few months old…in time for his first fall…Christmas…Easter…and birthday.  So many firsts have been made in this space.  Although we could spend our time in sadness, there is something so much more important than our leaving this space behind.  We are taking with us, our memories, and each other.  See, the space, means nothing, without us…and without our “stuff”.  Saying goodbye to the space seems easier knowing that the most important things we are taking along on our next adventure.  We will have each other.  We will have the foundation of a family that we built here.  We will have the excitement of a new adventure and a new space, where we will build even more memories.  

So as we prepare to say goodbye to this space, we look forward to the next part of the journey.  We look forward to continuing to make memories and build a foundation of love and adventure for our boys.  We hope to find laughter and excitement along the way, but recognize, as with any adventure, there will be challenges.  There will be sadness.  There will be disappointments.  But in all of that, we will have the memories and our foundation, built here, to get us through.  

Just a team…or not…

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Four years ago this summer we started on an adventure that we had NO idea would last or take us to the places it has taken us.  We had no idea that our boys would continue on the journey and didn’t realize the impact it would have on our lives as a family.  Four years ago, we started swimming.  And I don’t mean the swim in your back yard, float with a drink in your hand, and avoid the summer heat swimming.  


I mean 4-5 days a week for an hour or more a day, thousands of laps, hundreds of races, wins, losses, hours volunteering, poolside chats, panicked texts about missing _________ (the list is way too long to actually make…but envision it starting with swim jammers and ending with goggles).  We didn’t know 4 years ago, that this swim team journey would every really matter.  We didn’t know 4 years ago that our boys would be swimming in a 10 hour swim meet an hour and a half away.  But swimming, and all that it is, has become a part of life for our family.  Not a day goes by that someone, doesn’t mention something, about swimming.


With that…comes so much emotion as we prepare for our 1300 mile move.  See, leaving our school and neighborhood friends will be sad.  But since our boys have only been at their school for 2 years and because much of our free time is spent pool side, their deepest connections (and perhaps ours too) have been made at the pool.  Approximately 900 hours have been spent swimming or sitting on the pool deck.  That. Is. A. Lot. Of. Hours.  A lot of hours to connect with other kids and families.  A lot of hours for our boys to encourage and be encouraged as they learned about the best and worst parts of swimming.  So many hours of coaching, correction, repetition, commitment, frustration, passion, love, laughter.  Never could we have imagined, 4 years ago, what swimming would bring to not only our boys, but our family.


Nine years into parenting we have participated in our fair share of sporting/school events.  All with other parents and their children.  We have sat on sidelines at baseball games and watched many soccer games.  We have cheered on academic clubs and we have participated in music programs.  But after four years, we can honestly say, it would be hard to beat the feel of a pool deck.  See, on a pool deck, when a swimmer is in the water, all eyes are on that swimmer (whether first or last).  All eyes are watching as these kids (who lets be honest, are doing something most adults would never dream of doing every day), and as all of the eyes are watching, the voices are cheering.  The words of encouragement abound.  Parents cheer for kids they don’t know and those they know best.  When a swimmer is left to finish the race while the others wait at the wall, the cheers get LOUDER, because in swimming, it’s not just about who wins.  It’s not about a championship at the end of the season.  It’s about a personal best.  It’s about supporting everyone on the team.  Being the last one in the pool at five or six years old can obviously be terrifying.  But, I can only imagine what it feels like to hear so many people behind you.  We never would have guessed, four years ago, that we would learn and teach our boys so much about sportsmanship through swimming.  

Four years ago, we never would have guessed that not only would our boys find friends at swimming, but we as parents would, too.  We never would have guessed that when our boys have a rough swim, it might be the words from another parent (who may have a child in the same age group) that leave a lasting mark on our boys.  We never would have guessed four years ago, that our team, would in many ways feel like family.  

We have so much love for the sport of swimming after four years.  We have come to realize that swimming has brought our boys far more than learning to win or how to swim.  Swimming has given our boys a life long understanding of hard work, it has given them confidence, swimming has shown them what a true team looks like, and swimming has allowed our boys to meet so many amazing people.  The last four years, our boys have had amazing coaches.  Who have given them far more than just pool time.  They believed in them.  They pushed them.  And our boys have been surrounded by other parents who have helped them to understand that swimming isn’t only about winning, and that no one is in it alone.  

After four years of swimming for our team, it will be hard to leave.  But not because we can’t find another pool.  And not because We don’t think our boys will continue to grow and improve, but because here, four years ago, we started on a swim team, and find ourselves now leaving a swim family.  A group of people who have given so much to our boys…and to us.  So we will keep swimming, and I am sure we will find a wonderful new team, but we will never be able to replace all that swimming has given to our family in the last four years. Keep swimming TPA friends, we can’t wait to see where this sport takes so many of you!❤️


Four years later…we had no way of knowing that after 9 hours at a swim meet, these boys would still be filled with so much joy.

A little piece of our hearts…

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A year ago this weekend, life changed.  See, a year ago, 49 people were senselessly murdered 9.2 miles from our house, while we all slept safely in our beds. A year ago, our boys, learned that there is violence in the world.  A year ago, our boys woke up to news that a group of people had been targeted.  They learned words they had never thought to know.  They learned about loss, racism, hate, LGBTQ, they learned…that the world they are a part of, is not an innocent world.  More than anything, they learned, that this city, can come together and show true, honest love.  


A year ago, we as parents had to make the hard decision to tell our boys about the events at Pusle night club in Orlando.  You might be thinking, “Why would we tell them?” “They are so young.”  “They didn’t need to know.”  

And the answer is quite simple.  As a couple, and now, as a family, we believe that it is our job, our responsibility, our purpose to protect our kids.  But, in that protection, we also believe it is our purpose to be honest. To answer the questions.  To ensure that our boys hear the hard things from us, because honestly, what they hear out there in the world, may not be the Truth we want them to know and believe.

 9.2 miles.  Process that.  That’s no further than some people run on an average day.  It’s shorter than most people drive to work.  It is close enough that we could be there in less time than it takes to drive to our favorite splash pad.  9.2 miles separated our boys from the horror that took place the night before.  There was NO way to keep this out of their world.  No way to keep them from hearing what had happened.  

We talked as parents for a long time that morning, we talked about what to say.  We talked about how much to say.  We talked about using words and vocabulary that might take away their innocence.  But in the end, we felt it was important that our 6 and 8 year old little boys, heard from us, what we believe and how we show our beliefs.  Because, with something so painful as what had occurred the night before, they needed to understand that even with all of that pain, we can still be strong, we can still stand together, and we can continue to make an impact.  Our boys, needed to hear from us, that even in the worst of times, we have to know our beliefs.  We have to find our strength.  And we have to go on, because allowing the bad in the world to stop us in our tracks, allows the bad to win.  And we can’t let the bad win.
So we talked.  And we talked for a long time with our boys.  We talked about what had happened.  We answered their questions to the best of our ability.  Why did it happen?  Why those people?  What does it mean to be gay?  Why don’t people like gay people?  We talked to our boys about love.  And we talked to our boys about our belief in love.  And our belief that anyone should be free to love whoever they want to love.  Because we believe that we are all created differently.  We believe that who you love does not define you.  We believe that it is our sole purpose in life to ensure that we do whatever we can to love and care for all of the people who come into our lives.  No matter their color, their belief system, their gender, their orientation.  

As parents, if our boys learn anything from us, we want them to learn to love, and to love well.  And there are not stipulations on that love.  It is not a chart with some people being more deserving than others.  We talked about how as Christians, we believe that God calls us to love as Jesus loved.  Putting others before ourselves and finding comfort in knowing that if we do that, if we truly love those around us, then our own needs will be met.

As we took our boys into the world that day, to a swim meet with over 500 swimmers, and then on for the rest of the week and months to come…they would hear things.  They would hear what others felt and see signs in Orlando, both supportive and hate fueled.  They heard about a ‘church’ coming to protest the funerals of those who were killed.  And we talked.  We talked. We talked. We hugged.  We encouraged.  We listened.  We reminded.  All day, any time it was needed, that our job, is to love.  Unconditionally, without judgement. 

A year later, our boys had another swim meet, and on the way over, we saw a “One Love” banner.  Our sweet loving boys, remembered what the banner represented.  And they began to talk about it.  They talked about how they can’t understand why it would be bad to have two mommies (or daddies).  They reminisced about time spent with two of our favorite people recently, who happen to be a very committed and  loving couple.  See, for them, it’s normal.  They have friends with parents who are the same gender.  When they see two people kiss who are the same gender, they don’t turn away, because for them, it isn’t any different than when they see us kiss.  They see it as love.  They talked about how they don’t want to see anyone get hurt.  They talked about how it is okay to be different.  They talked about how pretty the banner was.  As I listened, I was reminded that even with knowing what happened that day, the horror that this city faced, our boys didn’t take away fear.  They took, from all of the anger and hate of that night, the importance of love. 

As we prepare to leave Orlando, a little piece of our hearts will stay here.  Our boys will be forever changed because of the events of that night and the love this city has continued to show.  The beautiful buildings lit up in colors, the Orlando Eye with its rainbow, Disney world and their fireworks, the flags being flown in businesses and windows, banners all around as we drove from place to place, 49 colorful stadium seats seen from the road as they finished construction on the new soccer stadium.  The conversations aren’t always easy, and the questions about that day aren’t easily answered, but we will be forever grateful to the people of this city who have spent a year honoring the lives of those who were lost and helping to show our boys how to love, and how to love unconditionally.  

Today we will continue to remember those who were lost a year ago, we will hold our boys a little tighter tonight, and we will continue to pray that the message of love will spread far and wide.  

And so it begins…

See, before we made the big announcement, the stress of this move was on our shoulders, but since we hadn’t told everyone, there wasn’t a place to let that stress go.  As we have thought about this move, one thing has been on my mind. A move this big with three little boys, who love their swim team, are starting to make roots in our community, and who seemingly have what they need right here, is terrifying.  But, Why?

I figured it out today, I know the problem.  The fear is in the room for failure.  The possibility that they may not love it there.  The chance that we may not find the same type of swim team, the possibility that the community we find may not be as inviting as we hope.  The chance, that we, as parents may not be able to provide what our boys need.  It’s the risk.  It’s the possibility that things may not work.  It is the fear, the complete life altering fear, that we might let them down.  It. Is. Terrifying.  
As I reflect more though, I realize that our boys are not losing from this adventure, no matter the end result.  Our boys are gaining so very much.  They will see more of our country (and Canada!).  They will have the opportunity to learn to ski.  They will learn what it feels like to venture to a new place.  They will begin to understand that distance does not mean relationships end.  They will develop a sense of appreciation for memories and how important they are.  But more than anything, with this move, our boys will be surrounded by love when they are sad.  They will be surrounded by grace when life is overwhelming and they make the wrong choices.  And they will be filled with the spirit of adventure.  See, life will be different.  But the way we love our boys, that won’t change, and really, that love is what they need more than anything.

On top of beginning to accept that what our boys need most is our love, encouragement, and grace…I also find myself believing that they will learn something much bigger.  Our boys will learn that risk is okay.  That change is and can be good.  And that sometimes, we fail.  Sometimes, things don’t go as planned.  And when we fail…or when things don’t go as planned, our job, in fact our purpose, is to pause, breathe, and figure it out.  What a lesson for three bright little boys.  What an experience for them to be a part of before they are adults. Knowing that we can take risks.  We can sometimes fail.  Very often we will succeed.  But when and if we don’t, as long as we are surrounded by love…by encouragement…and by grace we will recover.  We will find our way.  And in the end…we will have each other.

So here is to the things that go perfectly and the things that go completely wrong.  Because in the end, the five of us will be okay.  Most likely better than okay…and, the best part is, we will have each other through all of it.

Dream come….

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True? Maybe.  11 years ago we moved to Florida, with the intention of staying for a few years and then moving back north, back to seasons, back to mountains, back to the history of the north east, back to mountain streams, winter skiing, and so much more.  But life happens.  And 11 years later, we have made amazing memories, grown our family, met wonderful people, and learned SO much.  And now, the next chapter begins..

And although it has been our dream, I can’t say that I think it is a “dream come true”, see, a dream come true comes with ease…with little effort.  A dream come true is perfect, or as close to perfect as you can get.  But this dream, was anything but effortless and it certainly isn’t and won’t be easy.  

With the realization of this dream, there is also a chapter closing.  A chapter here in Florida, that we have truly come to love. There are people here who have helped to grow our sweet boys.  Grandparents, coaches, teachers, friends, family…too many to count, who have helped to shape our boys into who they are today.  And although we will come back and we will visit, those relationships will look different.  When we leave Florida, the one thing I wish for our boys is that they take with them the love, the lessons, and the strength they have been given by the people in our lives here.  See, our dream is being realized, but not without leaving behind a part of our lives. 

Our hearts long for the mountains…for seasons…for camping…for connecting with nature.  Being able to share that part of our beings with our boys, will be amazing.  Each of us journeyed to South Carolina 13 years ago this summer, not knowing what to expect and certainly not expecting to find the rest of our lives.  But we did.  We found each other.  And we found each other in a place where our hearts were full.  Outside.  In the woods.  Connected to the Earth and to the beauty of nature, we built a relationship.  The purity of the woods, of being disconnected from the world allowed us to truly learn about each other, and in that, we found love.  13 years later, being able to share that love of nature, the mountains, rivers, lakes…with our boys…is a dream.  But it isn’t without chaos…and it isn’t going to happen with ease.  Moving will be hard and expensive.  Moving will create chaos and it will push us to our limits. But the beauty of this is that we get to embark on this adventure together, we get to take this journey with or boys.  And that, is a dream.

So although this may not be a dream come true…it is a dream.  It is a messy, crazy, chaotic, terrifyingly awesome dream.

North Boston!  Wrights Tower, Middlesex Fells, and Wrights Pond!

So Cool.  Seriously. A gorgeous little retreat from the city, about ten minutes outside of downtown.  We spent a morning hiking and playing in the woods, and when we reached the top, had an amazing view of Boston.  What a great way to start the day!  Teaching the boys about the beauty in both the hustle and bustle of the city…and the quiet and calm of the city. I am always torn between whether I love the great outdoors or the city more, I guess mornings like this prove that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.  Each are beautiful in their own way and provide such great opportunities for growth, learning, and discovery!



After a few hours of fun hiking, it was time for the pond.  Let me just say this Florida boys, don’t get much chance to swim in lakes…or ponds…or any other non pool water…when we are in Florida.  Their mom and dad make their lives far too much to trust the gators that reside in every body of water in Florida!  So, pond and lake experiences are definitely outside of their comfort zone.  But by the end of the day, they were catching fish, jumping, splashing, and diving.  A fun filled afternoon with Juli is just what we needed after all the hard work earlier in the day!

Nothing beats time with Family…

It is amazing how quickly the summer is flying by, we have been gone two and a half weeks and will be heading home soon. We have had the opportunity to spend time with some of our favorite people over the last two and a half weeks, it will definitely be hard to say good bye.  One of the great things about New England (along with the Mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, cities, trees, amazing grass, winter snow, etc) is the fact that you can travel from state to state in a day trip.  So there is always plenty to do and see. Over the weekend we were blessed to have lots of time with cousins to play and celebrate just being together.  Our boys are very fortunate to have so many family members to love them when we come here.  There has been no lack of playing, smiling, laughter, cuddles, and love.  I hope that they will always feel that love.  I pray that as they grow older they will appreciate the gift of love that they have been given.  We spent several days playing together, both at home and some small adventures.  It has been a wonderful week of summer play…the boys have been summer tired every night.  How fortunate we are to be able to play hard and rest just as hard each night.  

Summer fun on a slope and slide and kiddie pool…these were a big hit!  Nothing like back yard fun!

Family BBQ…good food with good people!

Smug Mug.

Happy Mug.

So fun to see this guy be so nurturing with his little cousin, he is missing her this week!

New Friends!

Being six, it’s tough, but not when you have people who will listen and give you those special moments.

Cuddling at the end of a long fun filled day. TT loves his cousin Chris!

Very amazing Bald Eagle at the Ecotarium!  The boys loved this place!

Storm simulator, strong winds in the forecast!

Not so sure about the glass floor.

BUGS!


Look at that focus!  Not every kid can make a ball levitate!

A Rhode Island favorite on our way to get seafood and go to the beach!

This kid LOVED dough boys!

Ice cream…at a creamery…where you can see the cows from your seat.  

Beach.  He LOVES the beach.

Learning and Play go Hand in Hand!

Each summer we try to balance the “fun” part of our adventures with the “learning” part of our adventures.  One of the great things about being in New England is that the balance is easy to strike.  There are SO many amazing opportunities (both free and paid) for kids to explore and learn while have my fun.  

We figured this year might be the last year that our oldest would truly enjoy the Boston Children’s Museum.  I remember coming to the museum as a little girl with my cousins, and I am so glad that our boys could have that same opportunity!  They had a wonderful time exploring the exhibits, showing their little cousin Olivia some of the fun science they were learning.  The children’s museum provided opportunities to learn about a variety of cultures, science topics, and how to take turns.  Definitely one of the best children’s museums we have been to in our travels!

It’s great to see our older two begin to become nurturing little guys.  They were smitten by Olivia from the moment we met up with her and her parents.  I think it’s different looking out for your little cousin than it is looking out for your little brother.  Cousins have always been important to me, my longest memories are with family.  Summer trips north and traveling to see family for the holidays. We were always able to pick up where we left off, as if no time had passed.


Cousins, Beaches, and Art…oh my!

Wow!  What a great start we had to our first week in Massachussetts!  Our boys love the beach.  In Florida we live an hour from the beach, it storms at the beach every afternoon, and it’s really hot…even at the beach.

New England beaches though…cool breeze, not so stormy, and it’s not hot!  Oh, and there are cousins and friends at New England Beaches. The boys adored their beach day…and are looking forward to at least one more before we was home. I loved this beach day because the company was great and the water was the kind of cold where you are almost too cold, but it is so refreshing!


That tent, up there in the above picture, made our beach day amazing.  It may be an investment we make for our Florida beach days:).  I am so thankful for the relaxing day…before we started our fun in Boston!

Our boys (and their parents😜) are blessed to have great family who love to show the boys their passions.  One of their cousins loves history and has been waiting for the older two to be ready for the mummies at the Museum of fine Arts in Boston.  They loved the trip into the city…loved the time with their cousins…and LOVED posing like the statues.  


Although they may not know the names of the statues, I think it is really fun to think that as they get older, they may recognize them.  The exposure will help them to continue to develop an interest in both history and art.  I can’t wait to see those interests develop.

When we travel we rarely being a stroller.  We love our backpack, our little guy is not quite big enough to walk every where, but strollers are very bulky and folding/unfolding is so time consuming.  Thankfully, this daddy loves to tote this kiddo around when needed:).


Dinner in Boston ended o afternoon, and this guy loved his beer float!  Thank goodness for some fun camera filters to keep hungry boys busy!


What a fun filled few days!  I adore spending time learning and adventuring with our boys.  Seeing the world through their eyes adds a whole new perspective.  

Taking the back roads…

“OH!  We must be almost there!!”  “Nope, not even close.”  “Oh…why are you getting off of the highway then?”

We work really hard to teach our kid that the fastest most direct way to anything is not ALWAYS the best way…or even the correct way.  It’s a hard thing to teach in the year 2016 because honestly, they are growing up in an on demand world.  Their world happens as fast as they want it to 99% of the time.  Patience is a lesson they rarely have to practice.  Living in that world, an on demand world, certainly has benefits.  But there are a lot of drawbacks as well.

You miss a lot of life when you are too impatient to slow down.  Your experiences become mundane and you aren’t always willing to wait for the best part.  Our drive from Buffalo to Massachussetts included an overnight in Northern New York, where life Has to be slower.  There are few highways…there are lakes that require ferries to cross or long drives around. The last two years, that drive has been my favorite.  Ferries, lake view roads, dirt roads (lots of dirt roads, mountains, slow speed limits, and fun road side stops).  

Teaching our boys to slow down, teaching them to journey off of the beaten path, teaching them that life isn’t about how fast you can get something done but rather, it’s about appreciating the journey and the people along the way, is a core of our family.  Valuing life, God’s creation, and all that the natural world has to offer. We miss the mark a lot back home, where we are surrounded by sprawling suburbs, busy highways, and so many people…make it hard for us to find that space to enjoy the journey.  But it surely isn’t hard when these are the images in front of us…

Locations:  St Lawrence Seaway-Eisenhower Lock, St Lawrence Seaway power Station, Sodus Light House (Lake Ontario), Vermont Teddy Bear Company (where each bear is made by hand), River in or near Lincoln Gap Road Vermont, lots of dirt road mountain scales in Vermont, Lake Champlain.