When did we grow up?

I have very vivid dreams, always have, so my girlfriend wasn’t surprised to get a detailed description of my dream this morning. Full of details, names of people we knew back in high school and all the drama that ensued. Brené Brown made an appearance in this dream, even. Along with a rival from high school who always wanted what I had.

And after we recounted the bizarre from my dream – we lamented how much we miss spending time together and I asked “When did we grow up?”

How is it that suddenly we struggle to find time to carve out for some of the most important relationships? I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I think it’s because my kids grew up. I’ve taken a back seat in how willing I am to parade in front of them, because it’s their turn. I have a weird relationship with wanting to share my life but not blurring the lines into sharing theirs without their knowledge or consent. My experience as their mother is so personal to me, sometimes so raw, and while I’d like to be open about it; if I’m not discussing it out loud first, then I can’t be disclosing it in the echoing room of Instagram.

We’re all over the place for their schedules and activities, we tend to their social lives constantly and once in a while we carve out the time we once had for our own social lives and relationships. They go to bed later, so inevitably … we do, too. But more often, we’re going to bed when they do. Because we are exhausted. So the time we carve out becomes the negotiation of schedules and wants and needs of our immediate family: date night is just a pretty way of saying “the parents need to vote on all the children’s proposals for the next month.”

And I wouldn’t trade a day of it for anything. I absolutely love having older kids, as hard as it’s been to get me here. I love my family. I love having a teenage daughter and watching, with delight, on the sidelines as she navigates high school and relationships and making choices.

I didn’t know I’d love it this much. If you’ve been here long enough you might remember how hard it was when my kids were the ages I was when trauma happened in my life. It was a lucid dream sensation of reliving my own trauma but watching them flourish in something so much different, so much better, so much more stable. There was mourning for my younger self right along side championing my babies towards wholeness and growth through the hard stuff.

And now my oldest is a teenager. And such a beautiful one, at that. I don’t care if I’m that mom who has doe eyes for her kid until they’re 97. She’s magnificent and so ridiculously loved. We have hard days, she has mood swings. We bicker and yell, I’ve been known to lay on top of her to quiet a tantrum. We’re normal, whatever that is. But, GOD! We are normal. There’s normal in my life. I get to experience the redeeming love of commitment and the safe harbor of family. It is such a gift, for me.

Even if my tribe is much smaller than I could have ever imagined it would turn out to be. I can’t stop thinking about how getting to this place of peace feels like the first breath you take after being held underwater by someone stronger than you. It’s intoxicating at first, being so thirsty for air. But then there’s this weightless sensation of being free to negotiate your own body in the water, up the steps, out of the pool.

You kind of float.

When did we grow up? I think slowly and over a long period of time. But I also think instantly, and constantly. In the stolen glances as we watch our children achieve the things that are never guaranteed.

And I don’t take any of it for granted. I get to be here, I get to live this life with them. Of all the things I could have imagined for my life: they are far and wide the most precious piece of me. I get to do this. I get to watch them grow up, too.

All the things

This Fall has been so full, fun and it seems like time has sped up. Like, I feel it in my bones – maybe I’m going faster than I usually do, or the faucet turned on inside of me and there’s no slowing my roll when it comes to ideas or gumption or enthusiasm.

2019-08-25 19.07.00

I have so much to share with you, offer you, and tell you.

First – in August I did something new called “Tour of Homes” which started out as an idea I shared on Instagram.

It quickly turned into an event but more of an evening with friends. Here’s a blurb about it:

Tour of Homes is a way to see inside the lives of every day people that decided to redo some or all of their home. Often these updates are only seen by a select few but after getting a chance to see and be inspired by so many ourselves, we asked a few friends and brave souls if they’d be willing to show others what they’ve been working on.

Tour of homes
2019-08-25 19.55.23

The evening ended in the Glass House and magic happened.

More about that soon! But right now, down to what I have to share with you … we’re doing it again! Another Tour of Homes is happening in October and you can get your tickets here.

Before that, on Sunday, October 6th, I’m offering Fall Mini-Shoots and have a handful of open spots yet. It’s a photoshoot within a 30 minute time slot and guaranteed 15-20 images/digital files for you to use as you please. More info here. (And because I’m super good at technology (that’s a joke) you’ll likely have to request to gain access to the form, I’m sorry, I don’t understand google forms)

truck

There will be a number of different fall vignettes to choose from, including one like the truck above. I am so excited!

If October 6th doesn’t work for you – a few photographer friends are also offering Fall Mini-sessions.

BeeTree Studios has some availability on Thursday, October 17th and Friday, October 18th. Follow this link for more information. (There’s a pony!)

pony_beetree

Expression Studios is another option, with details coming soon. Like their facebook page for details later today. They’re thinking of offering them on October 26th or 27th.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

I mentioned the Glass House earlier … you’ll want to sign up for their newsletter to be the first to know when they have events. One of their first events is going to be October 5th and I’m going!! I cannot wait to learn how to make sourdough bread from Becky. It’s definitely a workshop type class, and a good half day one at that. If you’re as curious in the kitchen as I am and have the time to invest in this – check out the details here.

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In summary – here’s what’s going on this Fall:

OCTOBER 5TH – Sourdough for the people $150
OCTOBER 6TH – Fall Mini-shoots with me $100
OCTOBER 17TH/18TH – Fall mini-sessions with BeeTree Studios $125
OCTOBER 20TH – Tour of Homes // October Edition $10
OCTOBER 26TH/27TH – Fall mini-sessions with Expression Studios (details coming soon)

What else is going on around town/Where are you spending time this fall? Leave your ideas in the comments!

** No affiliate links have been used, I’m just really excited and like to share.

Here’s to life

Today marks the 15th year since my dad died. He had lung cancer, diagnosed about 17 months before the cancer took his life. In those 17 months of knowing he was going to die, he really lived.

Number ONE!

And so did I. I got engaged just before his diagnosis, then married, and when he died, I was pregnant with our first child, a daughter. We had just found out she was a girl, it was one of the last lucid conversations I had with him. Told him I was having a baby girl, what we planned to name her (at the time, which isn’t her name now). He was in his hospital bed in the living room next to the windows and all this natural light was flooding the house. Everything was brighter those last few months. I, of course, didn’t live at home anymore, so I was visiting sitting on his bed next to him and we watched the ultrasound video together. We both cried. I knew the hardest ending of my life was coming and in the midst of it, the very best beginning was already on her way.

Four and half months after he died, I gave birth in the middle of the night. There was almost no light in the room. I wore my dad’s watch and my mom was in the room with us. She came out perfect and I later learned the cord was wrapped around her neck. In those moments I didn’t know how serious it was that she get out NOW, my doctors were patient and careful with me. Everyone in the room knew why it felt heavy … and then all of a sudden she cried. My mom was crying, Aaron was crying, my breath was taken away, she was here! She was here. She was finally here, with me.

Jessica meets Pappy

Those first few months and years are really blurry in love and pain. Grief is a weird salve, life is often a great distraction. But I can’t help but wonder if in those four and half months after he died and my daughter was still in the womb, did they know each other? I know how that sounds, and it’s ok. I’ve made peace with where my grief goes sometimes. But she’s always known who Pappy is. She has always known her grandpa. As a very little girl, she would have dreams about him. I used to think it was because we kept him alive for so long, in memory. We would talk about him and tell her stories and remember what it was like when he was with us. But then, 3 1/2 years later our son came and he did the same thing.

Some of the most important men in my life

Life hasn’t turned out how I thought it would when he was still walking the earth with us to listen to my hopes and dreams. In a lot of ways, it’s better, in other ways, it’s just different. New, undiscovered. Things I hadn’t even known I could hope or dream for are now my life and I credit most of that awareness to the time spent with him. To being a student of his life. Watching him love, and hunger for living.

He was well enough to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, with my birth-father. I had both of my dad’s flank me as I walked towards Aaron on a beautiful August afternoon.

Given away

364 days later he died.

That was 5,478 days ago.

I’ve missed him every single one.

But here’s to life: to learning how to live with no regrets, how to be generous in our love, time and efforts and to always picking up the check. To letting the people you love know, often, how much they mean to you. To chasing every dead end road we can find. To doing the weird thing, like packing it in to a motor home or camper for 6 weeks and traveling the country. Why? The answer is always, always: Why not?

Why not live this messy life wild? Why not capture each emotion on a mountain top? Why not take hundreds of photographs that maybe only ever take your own breath away, but make you remember what it’s like to be breathless? Why not say yes? Why not say no? Why not?

In the fifteen years of time passed since Wayne walked here with us – my grief rounded her edges, my writing found a rhythm, my heart softened towards love, and my regrets and mistakes that held me hostage have lost their teeth.

Now instead of being sad that he isn’t here, I am so, so thankful that he WAS at all. Whatever he was for me, I started to wonder what I was, we were, for him. And I have so much happiness in knowing that we were actually everything.

We sure were lucky to have him, but he left totally fulfilled. Maybe early, but ready.

And damn it, if there was ever a way to go. That’s it.

My dad and I

An Icelandic stopover and The Blue Lagoon

We left Copenhagen at 10pm and got to Raycevick, Iceland around 11:30 or so (there was a time change, we went through so many time changes. Not only traveling but then we also went through Denmark’s “daylight savings time” in the middle of the trip. If we were worried about jetlag, we shouldn’t have been. Nothing made sense ever, we just woke up and ate when our bodies told us to. It all worked out, somehow.)

Iceland is set-up so well for these stop-overs. Or long layovers with connecting flights, it’s actually quite something. But because of the time we got into the airport – our hotel didn’t have transportation for us, so we hired a taxi and got to our hotel where we were able to get into our room without a hitch and all fall asleep. Hard.

It was the best night of sleep, ever. We stayed at the Geo Hotel for the night and were able to get a free breakfast and free transit to the Blue Lagoon the next day.

If an Icelandic stopover is part of your trip at any point, I would suggest doing all the research and booking the appropriate things as soon as you can. I knew we were going to do the Blue Lagoon but waited until we were in Copenhagen to book anything. It worked out, there isn’t any cost saving tips – Iceland is expensive, period. So be aware of that. Just know what you want to do and commit. I kept looking at other options and trying to make the most of our 18 hours in Iceland and finally had to just tell myself we were only going to be able to see one thing well.

The Blue Lagoon is amazing, Iceland is this other worldly experience. And I’m so glad we did and saw this. I honestly don’t think I ever need to go back, not because I didn’t like it, but had we not had a stop-over, I would have never chosen to go to Iceland on our own. I’m so glad we ended our trip this way, though. It was the perfect ending.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

You need to book a reservation for your party at The Blue Lagoon ahead of time. You can spend as much time as you want there (average time spent is about 4 hours) but if you’re reservation is for 9am and you stay until they close, it doesn’t cost any more or less. The reservation system is just to keep the locker rooms from being over crowded.

There are different packages available for you to purchase when you make a reservation but we stuck with the “Comfort” package which included a locker (which locked), a face mask for each person, and one drink for patrons over 14. Our son was free to swim because of his age so if he wanted a drink (they serve smoothies, pop and alcohol) we just needed to purchase that separately. You also get a wristband which is pre-loaded with your freebies and then connected to your reservation/locker/credit card. So if we wanted more of anything while we were in the lagoon we just scanned our bracelet and settled up when we were all done for the day.

We all enjoyed our face masks, free drinks, and a couple of us decided for an additional drink. Champagne? Yes. I signed up for that, thank you.

You bet I did. Those bubbles did everything they’ve ever promised me, in my adult life.

Once we were done soaking and trying the saunas we decided it would be a good idea to get out and eat something before we headed back to the airport for our last leg of the trip home.

We had some time before the shuttle bus to the airport came (which you need a reservation for, so book this ahead of time, also) and we used that time to explore just a little more.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

We flew home, all our flights for this trip were with Icelandic Air, which I cannot recommend more. It was seamless and a wonderful experience. Especially traveling with kids. Arriving in Chicago was euphoric. Reading street signs, driving a car, smelling the familiar air … and coming home to a place that, without a doubt, feels like home was beautiful.

I can’t explain what this trip was for our family. Years in the making, dreaming and planning. And we had no idea that when we planned and booked our tickets for the trip it would be bookended by one of the biggest decisions we would ever make.

It’s been hard to translate this for people when we get asked about this trip. We don’t need to go back to Copenhagen, we’ve already been. There are places in the world I love to go back to. Towns, houses, memories I want to visit over and over again. Copenhagen is more of a tide change in our lives than a vacation. It was an experience. An opening to the rest of the world for our kids. It was the beginning.

And what’s next? I have no idea, but it’s ahead of us. Not behind us.

Finding the Hidden Giants of Copenhagen

Saturday was our last day in Copenhagen before we caught our first flight toward home. Part of the reason we chose the airbnb that we did was for their check in and check out policy, it was flexible. And with our flight leaving Copenhagen at 10pm we didn’t want to be stranded in the city with our bags on our last day with nothing to do.

We loved the home we stayed in.

Photo

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Home for a couple weeks - Airbnb

Views in our yar

It was very much home for the 2 weeks were there. The kids each had their own room, we love traveling and having a full kitchen, and markets were a short walk from the house. It was so nice to have a place to come home to every day after our sightseeing and feel settled.

Earlier in our trip we found The Sleeping Giant and knew from all the research of our trip that there were 6, total. Because we didn’t rent a car I wasn’t sure we’d actually get to any of them, but we ended up being able to find 3 of the six.

On this Saturday we hopped a train towards Tilde, the little giant in the woods.

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Tilde was so enchanting. She was hidden away in a park, over-looking a pond. Her hollow core had little holes that were actually bird houses. Unlike Sleeping Louis, you couldn’t climb inside of Tilde. But the entire trek towards her was one surprise after another of things we would have never seen had we not looked for the giants. Parks, butterflies, swans, Icelandic horses (yes! they were in the park!), little cafes, walkways and neighborhoods, families …

And Tilde was very close to Thomas on the Mountain, so when we had our fill of the magic that was Tilde, we hiked it to Thomas.

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

Copenhagen Spring Break 2019

And that was that! Copenhagen was amazing. The kids (and we agree) thought the Giants were a highlight of the trip. Our daughter also chose the aquarium and public transit, I would say the Royal Kitchen, Aaron would say the coffee and all the walking, and our son would say all the parkour practice he got all over the beautiful cobblestone streets and stone houses. 😉

We left ready to be home again, which is exactly how I’d like to travel. Ready to return to the place I needed a break from. We got back to our house, took showers and packed and headed for the airport. But we weren’t quite done with the trip. We had an extended layover in Iceland to look forward to …