26 April 2017

Why we left our baby (and why you should too)

We thought long and hard about bringing Rory on this trip.
We are fully and unabashedly obsessed with her, and honestly I was sick just thinking about leaving her for so long. Our life is better and more complete with her in it, so why didn't we take her? After all, it's trendy to vacation with your kids these days. I feel like every famous blogger is constantly taking their kids on trips around the world... am I wrong?

But here's why I think you should take a trip just the two of you. Not every trip you ever go on, but at least a good solid once every year or two.

I think life itself is a process of change and rediscovery, and so our marriages (being a union of two lives) must be thus. So, especially after you have kids and get into the throws of life, do you know who you are as a couple? Not who you were when you got married, not who you are at the end of a long day when you're exhausted and fall into routine, but who you are when you get to just be....you?

I'm glad we didn't take Rory on this trip because it was fun for me to rediscover  Jaylor.
Who have we become as a couple 4 years post-matrimony and 2 years post-kid?

We are:
Dog lovers. We are the people who oogle over every shaggy, sweet dog being taken for a walk. And guys, who knew?! There are dogs EVERYWHERE in Europe. In restaurants, on trains, walking the streets. Everywhere. I had no idea we were (I for sure didn't realize I was) those kind of people. I don't think we ever even looked twice at a dog before getting our own and accidentally becoming dog people in the process and now we are slightly ridiculous.

Foodies. Food was more of a priority than museums in most every city, and thank the high heavens because I don't do well without good, full meals. Also ice cream. Gelato was a priority for us both, and gosh if Jay asking me if I want another gelato doesn't make me swoon.

Hand holders. I remember loving when we were dating that Jay always held my hand. We haven't done a ton of that lately, because when does that happen when you're wrangling a cat... I mean two year old? Grateful that part of us hasn't changed.

Serious talkers. Jay and I aren't chit chatters, necessarily. Jay is my quiet place, and always has been. And I am a big fan of quiet places. But when it comes to talking about stuff that matters (I mean, like relationship stuff, because isn't that what matters the very most?) we don't wait, and we get to the bottom of it. I like that about us. We fix anything that needs fixing. Immediately. And we can talk about hard things, which is a big big deal for me. I don't care if we aren't professional mindless chatterers as long as we can talk when it does matter.

Small town people, through and through. My handle for most social media is smalltowntaylor, and I did it because it's kind of clever... but OH MY GOSH IT'S SO TRUE. You guys, I wanted to die being surrounded by 5000 tourists and signs telling you to watch your back for pick-pockets. It's draining and emotionally exhausting for me, and I hate it. The museums are cool and everything but more often than not I'm just as happy to sit and enjoy God's creations. Roses, beautiful hillsides, the sunset, etc. We both enjoy solitude rather than crowds. Win.

There's lots more, but these were some of my favorites. I told Jay several times on this trip "I like us", and it's true. It's so good (and necessary) to be in love, but it's so fun to be in like too and I think sometimes that's harder to hold onto. I want to always genuinely like Jay and who we are/are becoming together. And if you go on a trip together and don't like who you right now, it's good to figure that out! Use it as a reason to open a conversation, and work toward something you can build on and grow old together with. Grateful for my forever person.

I like Jaylor.

24 April 2017

Cinque Terre

Oh, Cinque Terre. The five cities by the sea.
I will bless Jay's college study abroad forever for taking him here,
and giving him the desire to take me back.

We stayed in Corniglia, which next to Manarola is the quietest of the five cities, and the furthest from the ocean. But you can't beat the views, and waking up to the sound of waves and birds chirping instead of human commotion is the best thing. If you are coming with kids or want to have easy access to the beach, Corniglia probably wouldn't be your best bet but it was perfect for us. (Our second favorite is probably Vernazza, which has a great little cove area perfect for water play!)

We hiked the five cities (the walk of love on the south end is closed maybe indefinitely, which makes it a tougher hike, but so worth it) and I'm so glad we did. With the longer hike up through the mountains instead of the original path, it takes a very full day. You may think about breaking it into two. Regardless. Pictures never do justice to God's creations, but I'm getting better behind the lens to at least give you an idea. Holy moly. Because the last time Jay did this hike it was a lot easier and shorter, we didn't understand the need to hustle our way through the cities and may have been the very last insane people on the trail after dark.

Crystal blue water, tiny, wandering streets and stairways, lemon and olive trees on terraced hillsides,  and pizza by the ocean.

Recommendations: "Happy breakfast" at Matteo's in Corniglia. The fresh squeezed juice and hot chocolate are amazing, and it's the closest thing to an American breakfast you'll get all over Europe.

The pizza place right on the water in Vernazza. We got ours to go and ate it with our feet in the water.

Fried seafood cones in Riomaggiore. I'll crave that for forever.

20 April 2017

Europe: the much requested itinerary!

We found flights last fall for less than $1300 round trip for both of us (including taxes and insurance) and booked them on a whim.

I give (rightfully) all credit to Jay for everything about this trip. He booked the tickets, calmed my frugal mind while we worked out a functional budget, religiously researched the best food establishments in every area, worshipped Rick Steve's like the quirky awkward travel-idol he is, and made this time together a priority. (Go Jay!) All I did was pick up some of his chores while he planned (a much better trade in my opinion- travel that requires too much thought is not my idea of fun), and booked most of our accommodations through Airbnb.

Day 1 and 2: Delft, Netherlands YOU GUYS. Delft is a literal dream. Our host (Hey, Hessel!) said they call it little Amsterdam, and it has ALL the charm without the drugs and penis shaped everything (he may have also mentioned the lack of hordes of Asian tourists). I would take it over Amsterdam any day. Everyone rides bikes, it's clean and magical and the birthplace of Delftware (the beautiful hand painted blue and white porcelain) and has canals running through the city and floor to ceiling windows in basically every home and shop. (run on sentences are my weakness...)

Day 3: Fly to Nice, France. I'm going to be honest-uhh we didn't love Nice. Part of that is because we don't love big cities in general, but part of that was another two-fold issue. We had terrible weather while we were there. Nice is a beach town, and it was plain freezing. I think warm weather would cover a lot of ill in that regard. And second, it was dirty. Ugh, I can't stand the grossness of big cities. We literally encountered HUMAN FECES on the sidewalk outside the train station. I could see how it could be charming on the beach in the summer, but that didn't happen to be our experience.

Day 4: Train to Cinque Terre Italy.
Day 5, 6: I can't say enough good things about Cinque Terre. If you are a museum lover/city dweller, it may not be your cup of tea. It's quiet and gorgeous and right on the Mediterranean. Not a ton to do outside of hiking and eating, but those are kind of my favorite things.... so.

Day 7: Train to Florence
Day 8, 9,10: There is so much to see in Florence that even with 4 solid days you couldn't pack everything in. I will say at some point you just have to walk to the south side of the Arno River where it's a little less crowded. There's an unbelievable rose garden and cemetery and old churches with organists playing and old men making sure you have your shoulders and knees covered.

Day 10: Train to Rome, Sightsee.
Day 11: Rome. We only spent one full day in Rome because of our aforementioned aversion to crowds and cities, plus it's just pretty sketchy. Regardless, I'm glad we did it. There's just SO much to see. The Roman Forum was my favorite.

Day 12: Fly to Cologne, Germany. Rent a car, stay in quaint neighborhood in Waldesch.
Day 13, 14, 15: Explore the tiny, magical towns on the Rhine. Castles, tiny German grandmas making your Schnitzel, and a day to drive to/tour Rothenburg which was magical and 100% worth it.

Day 16: Train to Amsterdam, sightsee/try to avoid all things red light district (impossible. there are nasty trinkets and weed in the FLOWER MARKET- I just wanted tulips and waffles!), get SO EXCITED TO SEE YOUR BABY.

Day 17: Fly home and SEE YOUR BABYYYYYY!

There is SO much to say and share about each place and the things we loved, so for the sake of not making this the longest post in history, I'll break them up individually and link them back here when I'm done in the next few days!

For now, here's a series I call "Jay in Europe". While getting the settings just right on my camera I would just take pictures of Jay (without his knowledge most of the time), and I kind of love them all.

26 March 2017

Rory: almost 2

I feel like the months are becoming less and less important in the grand scheme. She's learning new things all the time, but there's no massive milestones we're crossing lately. So she's not really 21 months as much as she is almost 2.

At this age Rory:
-loves making people laugh, and laughing with them
-calls any and all humans within earshot "friends" (everybody at church is greeted "Hi friends!")
-is a fan of any type of nursery/daycare. Still runs to greet us when we come back, which is the best feeling in the world. Big smiles and toddler running together are pure gold.
-plays way better with kids 5+ than kids her own age
-would stay out in the yard with the neighborhood gang (who love her) all night if I'd allow it.
-loves Jesus and puppies the most, and is constantly saying "hi Jesus" out loud to all pictures of Him.
-tells completely unintelligible stories and similar songs all day long. Mostly about Boo.
-says the BEST prayers, which include a lot of interjections about Jesus and things she would like to repeat her thankfulness for (i.e. we're thankful for Mom, and dad, *AND RORY* and Boo *AND JESUS*) She said the loudest prayer of gratitude in Target the other day and had literally everyone in the isles busting a gut. "Thank you for mom....and Jesus, and Boo.... and Jesus... and Brookie....and mom"
-Is constantly announcing "I'm running!" or "I spinning, spinning spinning"
-Is still obsessed with shoes. Wears average three different pairs per day. Also sunglasses. And pockets. Any outfit with pockets is her favorite. Wait- I forgot bows! She requests that every bow she can find goes either in her hair or Boo's hair. "two bows, mom" is a common request.
-hates anything on her fingers, and had a breakdown because she had dirt between her toes after playing outside yesterday. It's frustrating sometimes, but mostly makes my life cleaner so I try to appreciate it.
-Is feisty, and I probably have to make her apologize 10 times a day (which she doesn't love doing), but is extremely bright and is typically pretty easy to reason with which makes it  manageable.
-Still has the best bathing suit thighs, and they're tan already bc serious obsession with "outside"

Tiny homegirl spreads love and giggles and high fives and smiles everywhere she goes and she is the sunshine in our life.

23 March 2017

How to help happy, a birthday list.

I had a birthday last month, and I made a list last year on my birthday that I never published. 
It still rings true so I thought I'd use it and add one more for this past year. 

I remember in high school a girl threw gum at my car...while I was in it. 
A drive by "I hate you" message, if you will. 
That experience really bothered me. It was such a blatant expression of hate, and I hardly knew her. 
After some sleuthing (it was high school. stuff gets around) I found out that the girl hated me because she thought I was fake. She didn't think anybody was actually that happy all the time. 
I couldn't decide whether that made me feel better or worse, because I wasn't faking it. I really was generally happy and tried to be nice. But I also wanted to be genuine, and I wanted people to be able to tell that I was real. Nobody likes being fake, and nobody likes someone who is fake. 

Mind you, my life wasn't perfect in high school. I had friends, but no close friends in my class at school, by my senior year most often ate lunch with the school counselor, and had blaring body image issues at play that eventually turned into an eating disorder. But though that was all very real and I had hard days, I wanted to be happy. So I did all I knew how at that point. 

I've gone through phases where I've been down and depressed, I think everyone does. 
But my life is easier and so much better if I choose to be happy, and I honestly believe it's a choice. 
And not that I'm any sage, but here are 26 things I've learned through trying (and sometimes failing miserably) that work for me:

1. Be nice and you'll never regret it (whether they deserve it or not). 
2. Give people the benefit of the doubt. 
3. Love your family above everything. 
4. Eat together. 
5. When you know you should, but don't want to... do it anyways. 
6. When you follow that advice ^ don't pout, it takes all the good out of it. 
7. Talk to your neighbors. 
8. If you think of something nice to do, do it. 
9. If you dream of something you want to do, do it. 
10. Don't let fear take your joy. Fight back (and if that fear comes from anxiety/depression:get help)
11. Love your body- it is amazing. And if it's healthy, you are more blessed than you know. 
12. Find your escape, and make time for it  (e.g.: reading, running, magazine browsing, painting, etc.)
13. Be confident in who you are. God made you who you are, and there's a reason for that. 
14. Eat what makes you feel good. Sometimes that's a cupcake, and sometimes it's salad. 
15. Figure out how to love your spouse even when you don't feel love toward your spouse. (*or friend, sibling, parent!)
16. We are all trying, and that looks different on everybody.
17. Practice self care. When you feel better, you do better. 
18. Pray. 
19. Practice patience, and if you aren't good you can learn how. 
20. Most things that you think you don't have, you can learn. (insert patience, talents, etc)
21. Learn your spouses (roommate/sibling/boyfriend) love language and speak it. Even if it's unnatural for you.
22. Figure out how to be happy where you are. 
23. Say hi to people, even if you are afraid. 
24. Say I love you. A lot. 
25. Make life meaningful- whatever that looks like for you.
26. Even if you fail, and fail, and fail- keep trying. 

So yeah, some days I feel mopey and tired and grumpy and fail miserably. But I keep trying and that makes a huge difference. When I look back, most days are happy days, not because every moment was happy but because I want to be happy and I make an effort to be.

So cheers to 26, and here's to hoping it's the most genuine, happiest one yet.