Denied

We’d been traveling through Germany and Austria for five days when my husband got the message:

“Your extension request has been denied.”

A road trip with three kids was never going to be easy. Someone got carsick, another skipped an entire night of sleep, and we got lost more times than I ever thought possible. On top of that, everything was in a different language so even basic tasks like ordering food took a bit more effort. We were travel weary and, while grateful for the opportunity to share the world with our children, also looked forward to the familiarity of home.

So when my husband’s phone chimed and he read the words “denied,” it felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.

We’ve lived in England for nearly seven years and it has become our home in every sense of the word. I adore this little island and all it’s quirks and differences. The conventions which were once so strange - driving on the left side of the road, doing laundry in my kitchen, saying ‘trousers’ instead of ‘pants’ - they’re all the customs that now feel familiar and safe.

And suddenly, that home was no longer our home.

The extension denial meant we would be sent back to America in November 2019. We had exhausted every last option to stay and this was it. And suddenly, the weariness of travel felt permanent. We’ve moved before, several times in fact, and it’s always an exhausting, tiresome process; much like exploring a new city in a foreign country. You get lost. You don’t know where to grab a quick bite to eat. Dialects and phrases are different. None of the faces are familiar.

All the difficulties we had encountered over the past five days suddenly seemed insurmountable. I just wanted to go home and that simple longing brought sadness not unlike mourning. This life we’ve built over the past seven years is coming to a close and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

I don’t want to go.

As we flew over Bavaria and descended on lush, green Suffolk farmlands, my head and my heart were at odds. I was home, yet I wasn’t. Life may be propelling us to a new place, but I will always make my way back here: to the familiar faces, the welcome greeting of “you alright?,” and the comfort of knowing where I fit in. There’s no denying it.

This is home.

Don't Blink

Just the other day, I was pregnant with a baby girl. And then she arrived, with eyes that glowed like silver-blue discs and a head covered in the softest, blond wisps I’ve ever felt. I used to inhale her breath at every opportunity; the scent of purest honeysuckle so addictive, I swear I could live off it alone.

Then I blinked.

And those silver-blue discs can now read full chapter books and spot seemingly invisible ladybirds in the tiniest places. Those blond wisps turned into a ballerina bun, wrapped with pink and gold roses. The honeysuckle scent evaporated; replaced by adult teeth fighting for space in a not-so-adult mouth and hysterical giggles over a sweet kiss on the hand.

I blinked.

And my baby is not a baby but she still is and she’s dancing off to her Valentine’s Disco with the baby of another mama who…

…just blinked.

How to Look Good in Pictures

You: Hi! I’m interested in having pictures done. How does it work?

Me: Yay! Basically, I’ll come to your house and photograph you being a mom and family. You can even wear your pajamas if you want; I’ll take care of the rest.

You: That sounds easy. But we’re not that interesting… and my house is a mess… and my kids might have a meltdown… and I’m really awkward in front of the camera… and [insert all your worries here which are totally normal, by the way].

Me: Say no more, fam.

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If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Roald Dahl said that. You can trust Roald Dahl. The man knows what he’s talking about.

When you take a day to spend time with your kids, you will have good thoughts about them. I mean it. And I’m talking about actually spending time with them. No distractions of phones, to do lists, or striving for angelic smiles or perfection. You don’t even have to go anywhere; allowing you to avoid the stress of loading everyone up, packing snacks, or wrestling an alarmingly strong wet noodle into a carseat. Where does that strength come from, by the way?

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Have a YES day. Let your kids be kids. And just watch how your thoughts start to change, and that warm, fuzzy feeling starts to shine out of your face like a sunbeam.

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How to look good in pictures?

Be yourself. Love on your people. Have good thoughts.

If you can do that, you will always look lovely.

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