That is Friendship

My friend moved away a few years ago and I’ve spent a lot of time since pondering what it means to be a good friend.

Because she wasn’t just any friend. She was my best friend, though I never once called her that. She was the friend who texts to check in when she knows I just had an important medical appointment, or my kid has been sick, or I’m waiting for big news. (To be fair, she still does that, from two thousand miles away.) She’d remember my birthday and bring me a cake and flowers. She saw me without makeup in yesterday’s yoga pants, dried spit up stains on my shoulder. She listened when I complained, when I worried, when I cried, when I judged another mom because I was in that kind of mood. She let me be raw and real, and she loved me anyways.

That is friendship.

It’s not the friends who call me their “BFF” in 6th grade only to ditch me by 7th. I mean, none of us should be held liable for the snark, drama, or pain we caused in middle school, but you know, that girl clearly wasn’t my friend. Not a true friend anyways. Not a friend who lasts. Not the kind of friend I deserved.

But that friend who moved away? From the beginning, she tried to be the kind of friend everyone wants. Long before we knew each other very well, I had a miscarriage. My oldest daughter was barely one year old and we were trying for a second. I got pregnant soon after starting fertility drugs, but just a few weeks later, the pregnancy was over. I lost the baby. Mother’s Day was a month later and I wanted to hide under a rock that day. I was a mother to two babies, but only one was still with me. Many people didn’t understand why the day was so hard. “Be thankful for what you have,” they’d say. “At least you have one.” But my friend who was barely a friend at that point? She sent me a message to say that she understood that day was probably a difficult one and she was thinking of me. I’ve never forgotten that. She didn’t yet know me in the way that a best friend does. She couldn’t read my thoughts or anticipate what I would say or do next. And she’d never gone through a miscarriage of her own. But she saw me. She saw my pain.

That is friendship.

It’s not the “fair weather” friends who’ve got my back when life is good and I don’t need anything from them, but quietly disappear the moment I do. It’s not the friends who lay down the messy pieces of their life at my feet and expect me to help them put it all together, but can’t do the same when my own life starts to fall apart. I’ve had those friends and, in the end, I only feel more alone than ever.

When I was sixteen, my beloved uncle died unexpectedly. I fell to my knees when I heard the news and lived in a foggy haze of alternating disbelief and uncontrollable tears for weeks. As soon as my best friend heard the news, she rushed over to my house. She stood beside me as I packed my suitcase so that my parents and I could make the two-hour trek to where our extended family lived. Tears fell fast down my cheeks and she didn’t know what to say. As high school juniors, neither of us knew how to navigate the murky waters of grief and loss. But she was there nevertheless. She was present. She held space for me. She never shied away from the ugly, unpredictable, sometimes unreasonable state I was in. She was there. And fifteen years later, when my father passed away, she did the same thing. Except this time, she drove six hours to be at the funeral. Her husband had to work, so she came on her own with three kids under the age of six and, when the funeral was over, she turned around and drove back home.

That is friendship.

It’s not the “out of sight, out of mind” friends who forget about me when I’m not around. Those ones have value, too, I guess. They’re present when we’re together, so present that I may be fooled into thinking we’re best friends. They make me laugh. We engage in deep conversations about childhood trauma and politics and God. But they’re not always there. Often, they’re not there when I need them the most.

I have a friend who lives across the country. We met through blogging and bonded over being introverts with a love for photography and animals and an understanding of the delicate, complicated emotions that surface with infertility and loss. We’ve only ever met face-to-face twice and sometimes we go months without checking in with one another. But then, out of the blue, comes a text: “I’ve been thinking about you, sweet friend. How are you?” And we’re off and running with all details that we need to fill each other in on. Her life is busy, sometimes painfully so in a way that I can’t even fathom, but she is never too busy to offer words of comfort, or encouragement, or solidarity. When I get a positive pregnancy test, she is one of the first to know and the greatest piece of advice I’ve ever gotten in terms of that came from her: “I know you’re scared. But don’t let that steal your joy for one single second.”

That is friendship.

That’s the kind of friends I need. That’s the kind of friend I want to be.

It’s not the friends who take one small thing I say, twist it around in their heads and their hearts, and convince themselves that I have been out to get them all along. It’s not the friends who always expect me to make time for them in my schedule, but won’t do the same for me. It’s not the friends who only give a little, but take a lot, and do it unapologetically. It’s not the backstabbing friends, the lying friends, the “I can’t be bothered” friends, the “take me as I am even if I hurt your feelings on the daily” friends. Those people aren’t really my friends, are they?

But. Thank God for the other friends. The friends who have my back. Who give me the benefit of the doubt. Who put in the time and effort it takes to have and be a best friend. Thank God for the friends who stay. Who stick around even when I’m not at my best and our friendship isn’t easy.

That is friendship.

That is friendship done well.

Things I Love, Big and Small

I love making lists.

I love when my slippers match my hoodie and joggers. I love nicknames, Harry Potter, painted toenails, raw cookie dough, and soft skin.

I love the curls of steam that rise from a hot cup of coffee.

I love when he lets me put my cold hands under his shirt.

I love how, when I sit down with a cozy blanket, our dog seems to know and she finds me.

I love that I get filled with the warm fuzzies of fondness and affection whenever I think of some of my college professors. I love that I still keep in touch with a handful of them.

I love vulnerability and authenticity.

I love my youngest daughter’s curly, untamed hair.

I love the freckles on my shoulders and on oldest daughter’s nose and cheeks. (I wish she loved them too.)

I love singing “Amazing Grace” with a room full of people.

I love summer days that are 72 degrees with a light wind and I love autumn days that are 52 degrees with sunshine after a heavy rain.

I love the smell of a library.

I love rainbows that stretch across the sky when rain and sun collide.

I love honesty, even when it hurts.

I love, on the days when I am unreasonably irritable and demanding and emotional, he holds my hands in his own and looks me in the eyes and says, “I love you.” I love feeling seen, known, and understood.

I love forgiveness.

I love to give gifts even more than I love to receive them and I especially love when it’s an over-the-top surprise that they never saw coming.

I love that it’s our policy not to kill spiders in our house. I love my love for animals and that my kids have inherited (or learned?) that kind of love too.

I love massages.

I love connecting with random strangers about random things, like the rain we’re both trying to get out of, or the child who won’t stop screaming, or simply because I did something nice like hold open the door for them.

I love adding songs to my next birth playlist, just in case there’s ever another birth.

I love dreaming, imagining, hoping, planning. Praying.

I love how my oldest son and daughter will do a deep dive into subjects that fascinate them, like Greek mythology and spiders and dinosaurs.

I love grumpy old people and mischievous toddlers.

I love babies in sweaters and winter hats.

I love that strawberry jam, Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday make me think of one friend in particular.

I love hearing my husband laughing aloud at what he’s watching on YouTube while he does the dishes. (I love that he does the dishes.)

I love birth photography and black and white images and the contrast of shadows and light.

I love stories about second chances, and unrequited love, and overcoming the odds. I love stories that make me weep.

I love when he calls me “babe.”

I love that my kids love the candied sweet potatoes from my childhood.

I love how my heart leaps when I unexpectedly see a Steller’s Jay in our backyard, beautiful blue wings against the backdrop of a forest of evergreens.

I love new friends who feel like old friends and old friends who never feel new, even with years and miles between us.

I love flannel sheets and flannel shirts.

I love how our “baby,” newly walking, toddles around like an unstable drunk man. I love that when he falls down (which he does, often), he gets right back up with a huge smile on his face and just keeps going.

I love the mullet that forms when a toddler’s hair grows faster in the back than on top.

I love roses and how, when the wind blows, you can smell the ones growing in our yard.

I love long, dangly earrings.

I love maxi dresses and sweaters that slip off my shoulder and cute boots and cropped jackets.

I love my 8-year-old’s long lashes, gigantic eyes, and how she’s never met a stranger. She loves everybody and will say hello to anyone and I often think, I wish I could be more like that.

I love buffalo plaid everything – sheets, scarves, oven mitts, slippers, pillows, purses, paperclips. Everything.

I love a fireplace flickering in a dark room.

I love hospitals and airports.

I love Hawaiian sunsets.

I love a British accent.

I love passion fruit and pickles and eating a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips.

I love Indian food.

I love winter sunshine and summer rain, big hugs, sledding with my kids, reunions, hot showers, and the smell of baking cinnamon.

I love the sound of birds singing on an early morning walk.

I love every doughnut ever made as long as it doesn’t have bacon on it.

I love when I put my hair into a messy bun just right and I look cute-messy and not hot-mess-messy and not old-lady-messy.

I love how our 6-year-old is almost always half-naked when he’s at home and how his laughter can’t be contained.

I love when his little sister comes upstairs after waking up and says in her sweet little voice, “Good moaning, Mommy.”

I love people who surprise me, who make me want to do better, who challenge me, who question me, who take no prisoners and get shit done. I love people even though I also really really love to be alone.

I love silence.

I love lines on a carpet left behind by a vacuum.

I love old houses, old cities, and ghost stories.

I love telling people I have 15 siblings. I love knowing I have 15 siblings after nearly a lifetime spent as an only child.

I love hills that are alive with the colors of autumn.

I love being pregnant and the anticipation and hope of a new life, a future that has just barely begun.

I love newborn babies. I really love newborn babies curled and asleep on my chest, their warm weight, their indescribable but delicious smell.

I love nursing newborn babies a few minutes before dawn, just as the sky starts to lighten. I also love nursing newborn babies next to a twinkling Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

I love how a tween can seem so grown up one minute and, the next, she is playing “bad babies” on the floor with her siblings. I love that she still needs me.

I love Philippians 4:13 and always have.

I love laughing uncontrollably, until my stomach hurts and tears pour down my cheeks.  I love having someone to laugh with. I love people who make me laugh.

I love how, when my 3-year-old has nothing to play with in her carseat, she makes her fingers or her feet talk to each other.

I love dirty chai tea lattes.

I love dusty rose pink, mustard yellow, and olive green.

I love London and how I always feel at home there. I love Australia and all its wonder and mystery. I think I love Ireland and Africa and one day I will find out for sure.

I love the vastness of the ocean and how I always feel in conversation with God when I stand on the shore.

I love friends who text me randomly to say, “Hey, how are you?” or “I’ve been thinking of you,” or “This reminded me of you.”

I love the smell of onions and peppers cooking in a frying pan.

I love that, even as I approach forty, I am still the apple of my mama’s eye and she tells me I’m her “hero” because I do things she would never even dream of.

I love how safe I feel when I fall asleep with his hand on my hip.

I love a good lens flare. I love buttery golden light and bokeh.

I love reading writing that makes me swoon and feeling inspired to write for the first time in a long time.

I love being appreciated and I love being loved. I love being grateful.

I love that there are countless things to be grateful for and that this list is really just the beginning.

(This post was inspired by Ashlee Gadd and Katie Blackburn.)

But You

The sun went down in March
and winter settled in.
As buds sprouted,
the days got longer
but darker
and harder.

We hunkered,

We withered.

We thought,
it’s just a season.
But one
became two,
then more.

And some will say
this year is

Some will say
no good has come
from this year.



The first thump
of your heart.
The first kicks
to my heart.
The first cry
that ripped
my heart
wide open.

There was you
and your warm,
solid weight
in my arms.
Your first smile.
Your first laugh.
The comfort of knowing,
not all is lost
if there is you.

The year was cold,


The year was empty,


shined a light
into the corners,
lifted the darkness,
eased the ache,
calmed the waters
that rocked
my soul.

It was an ugly year,
a long winter,
but I felt the sun,




has settled into

She needs ROOM to feel
right now,
but she’s CHOOSING HOPE.

she says.



Let Us See the Light

Today was a Sad day. Some days are Joyful. Some are Mad. Some are Thankful, or Tired, or Too Much. But today felt Sad. And yet, even in the darkness…the overwhelm…the chaos, panic and endlessness, there is light.

It comes in the form of baby kicks when I lay awake in the middle of the night. The colored pencil creation of a unicorn named “Sparkletoot,” brought to life by my third grader. The squeals of my youngest three as they have a pillow fight on my bed. It comes in the form of small packages delivered by our church, the sun streaming through our sheer lace curtains, a blended chocolate coffee drink surprise that my husband made unexpectedly and brings to me as I sit and wallow in the melancholy.

He is home from work, furloughed for the time being. I am pregnant with our fifth child, filled with a mix of anxiety, gratitude, confusion, and joy. Life is uncertain and so some days are Sad. But I can pull a doughnut out of the freezer to comfort myself. I can take the baby for a walk in the sunshine. I can notice the way the golden light falls beautifully onto the flowers in the neighbor’s yard. I can take a nap. I can take a bath. I can take an hour to bake muffins with my oldest, knowing this is something we so rarely get to do together, knowing how it’s filling her cup, and mine, even on a Sad day.

And it was a Sad day, not the first nor the last, but it wasn’t filled with 86,400 seconds of sadness. There were bright moments, moments of light.

Those will be my beacon, even on the darkest day.

The Anchor

My baby,

In this world
where we hoard,
we hunker,
we hide away,

where the news
tips us towards
and we can’t
hug and hold
our friends
or our neighbors,

where drive thru coffee
and takeout meals
are the best
we can do,
and feel like
a blessing
and a gift
when so much else
is being taken away
from us,

You are my anchor.

I feel you kick,
and I know
life will go on.
Life continues
even as time
seems to stand

I feel you wiggle,
and I know I’m not

I hear the quick
thump thump thump
of your heartbeat,
and I know
God is good,
God is here,
in me,
in you,
in all of us.

We are not
or forgotten.
Only forgiven
and loved.

as the world
falls apart
and we cling
to hope,
you are the
that I need.

It is you
who is
holding me

A Glorious Mother’s Noel

O, glorious mother,
strong and everlasting,
weary but ever loving
warrior that you are,
I see you.

You bake the cookies with love,
letting little hands
add sprinkles and red hots,
never mind the mess
left in their wake.

You watch the kids
decorate the tree with glee,
cleaning up broken glass and glitter,
quietly rearranging
the unbroken ornaments
after the little ones are in bed.

You shop for
the love of your life,
the kids who rule your life,
the family who gave you life,
the teachers, the coaches,
the neighbors, the babysitter,
the dog,
and you wrap it all
in pretty paper and sparkly bows
that catch the twinkly lights
of the Christmas tree.

You tuck magic into packages,
and every corner of the house,
and every free hour of the week.
You want those little eyes
to sparkle
with the joy and wonder
of this holiday,
for they are only this small

You attend concerts and craft fairs.
You schedule photos with Santa.
You take them to see
the tree lighting,
the parade,
the lights at the zoo
and around the neighborhood,
sometimes against your will,
but always with a smile.

And on Christmas Eve,
you know there is no calm and bright.
There is no silent night.
You will hardly sleep
as you try to quiet the chatter
of excited children,
wrap gifts from the jolly one
and sneak them out to the tree,
rock the baby to sleep as you sing
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,”
and then do it again
three more times in the night,
only to fall asleep in the glow of the
Christmas lights
and be awoken at 4:30am
by a 9-year-old
who is peeking to see if
Santa has come.

I see you.

glorious mother,
weary warrior,
whose work is never done,
work harder than ever
at this time of year.

You do it knowing
they don’t understand
the effort,
the time,
the tears,
the love
behind any of it.
Behind all of it.

And yet,
you do it anyways,
with the love,
and grace,
and tenderness
that makes you
a mother.

And next year,
you will do it again,
o glorious mother.
You will gladly
do it again.

Because We Love Them

I wrestle my 4-year-old into his costume as he wiggles and squirms and gloriously laughs with his head thrown back. He’s the most ticklish of the four and every time I grab his hand to pull it through a sleeve or brush his longish hair out of the way to fasten the velcro at the back of his neck, he’s sent into a fit of giggles.

Once he’s been successfully transformed into Optimus Prime, I move on to his baby sister. She’s not yet one and a half and finds it a delicious game to try to escape down the hall as I chase after her. As this is the third time putting her into her costume, we have a familiar back and forth now. I put her foot into the leg hole; she pulls it out. I shove her arm into the sleeve; she pulls it out. This continues until, through my own sheer willpower and speed, I’m able to force her into the little pink monster costume before she is able to undo all of my hard work.

The two big girls can get into their costumes on their own, but they still require Mom’s tutu-fluffing and sleeve un-twisting skills. They need their hair done. They need their picture taken. They need my thumbs-up when they ask, “Do I look ahhhh-mazing, Mom?”

For them, Halloween is magical and delicious, permission to play dress-up and eat more candy than they’re normally allowed. For me, maybe for moms everywhere, it’s misery. Getting four kids into and out of their costumes over and over and over again must be what Hell is like. I can think of no greater torture.

After our weekend trunk-or-treating festivity, there is an explosion throughout the house of costume pieces that have been discarded by the kids as they transformed back into their adorabley average human children selves. I scramble around, trying to collect them all, keeping each piece with the right costume so as not to have a complete meltdown by one kid on The Big Day (i.e. Halloween) because of a missing headset or gold belt.

It’s too much and I hate it all. Do they have a Halloween Scrooge costume? Because that’s what I should be wearing this season. It’s just too damn much.

A few nights ago, I spent a half hour searching for their trick-or-treat bags, followed by another twenty minutes laying out winter coats and boots for them to wear at the school Halloween carnival last night. I spent the good part of summer listening to three out of four of them brainstorm costume ideas. There is glitter all over my bed from my daughter’s rockstar costume. And in the kitchen, there are three plastic bags filled to the brim with candy. It’s not yet Halloween, and our lives are already overrun by Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Earlier in the day, I had to endure The Great Negotiation of 2019 with my oldest daughter, as she argued why they should each be allowed to have five pieces of candy from their bags, plus the bowl of candy corn and Mike and Ikes that she was given at the Harvest Festival. I also had to carefully comb through her younger sister’s bag of candy to remove anything with dairy and nuts in it because of her allergies. I’m tired.

November 1st can’t come fast enough.

So then, why do it? Why engage in this annual song and dance of costumes and candy and “No, you may not eat anymore today,” and “Please stop asking” and “If you steal another piece from your sister’s bag, I will…” I mean, why put ourselves through that?

After lunch today, I was helping my son get into the shoes that matched his costume and he said so sweetly, “Thank you for letting me be Prime, Mommy. Okay, Mommy? Thank you.” He’s my wild child right now, full of energy and giggles and silliness and sometimes aggression. He’ll tackle you to the ground when you least expect it. He’ll throw a Magic 8 Ball at your head and bulldoze you as you stand at the stove cooking dinner. But of all his siblings, he is the one who always notices if someone is sad or upset. When I have my period, he rubs my achy tummy. And this crazy, unpredictable boy of mine, he has a heart overflowing with gratitude.

I think back to two weeks ago, when his costume first arrived in the mail and he was nearly shaking from excitement at the possibility of trying it on for the first time. After we did the first of many transformations, his eyes lit up as he stared into the mirror and straight into the eyes of one of his favorite characters. “Oh, thank you, Mommy,” he said. “This is the best!”

And suddenly, the answer is so clear why we do it.

The answer is so simple.

Because we love them.

We do it for love.

When my oldest daughter was almost three, she became a big sister. Naturally, it was a hard transition, especially for her. One day, I was exhausted from having a newborn (duh). I hadn’t showered in almost a week, had dried spit-up on the shoulder of my shirt, and I had dishes to do. But my daughter was whiny and irritable that morning, and the baby was sleeping and so I asked my 3-year-old if she wanted me to play with her. “Oh yes!” she said enthusiastically in her tiny voice and so we played with her princess castle for twenty minutes.

It was the most boring twenty minutes of my life.

Call me a bad mom, but I do not love playing with my kids. But I did it then on that day years and years ago and I did it over and over again, every morning, for weeks. I didn’t really want to be there. I wanted to be doing dishes or sipping a coffee or, best of all, napping. But my daughter needed me. She needed my presence. She needed my undivided attention.

I played with her because I loved her.

And so it goes for Halloween and every other task we do. Some of them we do because we want to, yes. For me, that’s the photo books I make every year and the annual Christmas Tree Interview I conduct with each child and a myriad of other things, of course. But many of the things we moms and dads do, we do because we have to. Or because we’re supposed to. And yet all of them? All of them are done because we love them.

Them, who know the right buttons to push and like to push them all the time.

Them, who turned our hearts inside out and our worlds upside down the moment they came into our lives.

Them, who we’d die for.

Because we love them, we play Barbies and cars and Littlest Pet Shop ad nauseum. Because we love them, we play Candy Land until our brains bleed. We read the same book over and over. We listen to the shrill squeak of a violin that is just learning to be played. We watch them do a somersault again and again and clap every time. We push them on the swings when we’d rather be sitting down reading a book. We sit on the sidelines of a soccer game on the coldest day of the year. We hold them as they puke, comfort their fears in the middle of the night, kiss the booboo that is barely there because it makes them feel better. We make them get vaccines, or we choose not to. We try to breastfeed even though it’s hard. We spend a small fortune to take them to Disneyland. And when we can’t do one of these things, or we choose not to, we feel guilt because we think we should. And all of it? However easy or hard, small or big, all of it is done because we love them.

So know that on Halloween, as all the neighborhood children pour out onto the streets to sweetly ask for a trick or a treat through gaps in their teeth, I will be there too, following behind four little ones of my own, reminding them not to drag their candy bags on the ground and to stay close so as not to get lost in the sea of other monsters, superheroes, and celebrities. I may be counting down the minutes until the night is over, but I will be there. Because I love them.

And after they’re tucked into their beds at night and I know for certain that they are asleep, I will sit down with a hand full of candy, stolen from the bag of the little ones I just put to bed. A little reward to myself for surviving the last week. I’ve earned it.

But also, isn’t it obvious? Cavities and sugar highs and stuff. They don’t need that. Every bite of Skittles and Twix that I take, I’m doing it in the name of love.

I’m doing it because I love them.

He Never Wanted to Be a Dad

He never wanted to be a dad.

I wanted to be a mom, and he loved me, so he came along for the ride. But he never wanted to be a dad.

He didn’t have that internal longing like I did to have children of his own. His arms didn’t ache to hold a baby. He had no drive to pass on his genes. He didn’t dream of teaching his son to ride a bike or of being the knight in shining armor to his daughter. He didn’t envision a house full of kids and a heart overflowing with love.

And yet.

Look at him as he rolls around on the floor with them. Look at him as he sips his coffee and reads them a book, flanked on either side and with two on his lap. Look at him as his eyes well up when our oldest daughter finally meets the Disney princess she loves the most. Look at him as he gets down on his knees and looks them in the eye and says, “I love you so much.” Look at him.

Look at him as he beams with pride when one of our daughters reads us the story that she has crafted. Look at him as he patiently lets our little boy use the hammer, and the drill, and the wrench, even though everything could be done so much faster if he didn’t have those little hands helping. Look at him as he tosses the baby into the air and they both collapse into a fit of giggles. Look. At. Him.

You would never know he never wanted to be a dad.

He never wanted to be a dad, but he is, and he’s the best kind. He’s the kind who shows up. To the awards assemblies and parent-teacher conferences. To the midnight stomach upsets and bedwettings. To the Christmas programs and ballet practices. To the diaper blowouts and tantrums. He shows up when they want to tell him the plot of their favorite book (even though he already knows it) and when they want to put on a song and dance performance from the coffee table (for the 78th time). He shows up when they have broken toys, broken bones, and broken hearts. He always shows up.

Ten years and four kids ago, he never wanted to be a dad. But a decade later, we have a nest full of baby birds and I’m thanking God for leading me to this man, for allowing me to choose him to be the dad to the children I dreamed of having. Every time I witness the way that he engages with them, loves them fiercely, fights for them, offers patience and understanding that I can’t muster in the moment, I fall more in love with him. For all the doubt and uncertainty that he had as we began this journey, I know that there is only one thing that matters now.

He may have never wanted to be a dad. But. But I think a dad is what he was always meant to be. And I couldn’t love him more for being the one that he is.

Travel With Them Anyways

They will say you shouldn’t travel with small children. They will say it’s too hard. It’s not worth it. You’ll regret it. That it won’t be a real vacation.

They will say, for the love of God, whatever you do, do. not. travel. with. little. ones.

But I say, do it anyways.

I have four kids under the age of nine. I will be the first to tell you that traveling with them is anything but easy. Whether we travel down the road, across state lines, or over an ocean and through the woods, taking them anywhere is neither simple nor relaxing. Not ever.

And yet, we do it anyways.

We do it because travel teaches them about the world. They see new things. Hear new sounds. Taste new foods. Meet new people from every walk of life. Experience new moments that have the potential to change them, and us. On our recent tropical getaway, my 3-year-old son got to play in the ocean waves for the first time. He followed his big sister into the ocean (just a few feet away from us), was immediately knocked over by a strong wave and did a hard face-plant into the sand. That poor guy, he had sand in his eyelashes, his scalp, his ears, and his mouth. For days after, he avoided dipping a single toe into the water. He was terrified. But with gentle coaxing and a hand to hold, he learned the joy of standing ankle-deep in the water and letting the waves hit him. He learned how fun it can to be play chicken with those waves while running down the beach. He learned to overcome his fears. On our very last day, he said, “The ocean isn’t scary anymore. This is so fun!” That simple discovery for him, that boundless joy he felt as he played in the water, will stay with me forever.

We do it because travel teaches us important life lessons. In our last trip alone, we experienced an unexpected snowstorm that caused a long flight delay, our baby cut two teeth in the first half of the trip, our warm and tropical destination had a cold front blow through, and my husband’s eyeglasses were washed away with a strong ocean wave. For a while, it felt as though our long-awaited for trip was just one disaster after another. But we also learned a lot about letting go of the things we can’t control and making the most of an unfortunate situation. It wasn’t often fun. It certainly wasn’t easy. But however miserable it was at the time, I think we gained a little strength and resilience along the way.

We do it because, though it may not always be worth it to us in the moment, it is always worth it to them. The first feel of warm sand between their toes. Finding a small chameleon in a tree. Watching the vibrant red cardinal flit from one branch to the next. Wishing upon a star in the dark night sky filled with more stars than they have ever seen in their life. Spotting a hot air balloon drifting above the mountains. My oldest daughter still talks about the joy and wonder of meeting her favorite princess at Disneyland (God help us) years ago. She still remembers riding the Tube in London and how exciting it was to watch and wait for the next train. She doesn’t remember much else of either trip. Certainly, she doesn’t remember the jetlag or tantrums she threw or how overwhelmed and overstimulated she was on many days. She remembers the best parts, the parts that matter. And when we look back, we realize that’s all that really counts: not the pain that we experienced, but the joy that stays with us.

Mostly, we travel with our wee ones because there is a bond that travel creates for our family that is unique and irreplaceable. A bond that only shared experiences and special memories and unlimited family time for days on end can create. We spotted those dolphins. We got knocked over by those waves. We rode that roller coaster. We all squealed as that gigantic male bison ran alongside our minivan and ate a piece of bread straight from Daddy’s hands (at a game farm park where it was allowed, ahem, not in Yellowstone). And we did it together.And when times are hard on any given day of the year, when there are tears and disappointments and sadness in our every day lives, we can look back on those times as a family and remember the God-given beauty and the tireless joy of days gone by. The vacation is over, but it’s easy to recall the feelings of excitement, wonder, and comfort those precious moments gave us. That is everything, Moms and Dads. That is everything.

Think of it this way: traveling with kids is a little like Christmas morning. It’s messy. It’s expensive. It’s loud. It’s exhausting, for everyone involved but especially for the parents. It is not always relaxing or quiet or even enjoyable. But it is magical. Seeing the holiday — seeing the world — through their eyes is the closest you will ever get to NeverNeverLand. If you go into it with realistic expectations and a heart that’s wide open, it can be a breath of fresh air, giving you a new perspective. Giving you new life. It won’t be perfect or painless. But it can still be worth it. Often times, the hardest things are.

To be clear, I also believe in traveling without children, either alone, with friends, or with your significant other. Do that too, and do it without regret or guilt. But when everyone else is telling you not to take your littles and travel down the street or around the world, because it’s too tiring, it’s too difficult, it’s too expensive, it’s too much of all the bad things and not enough of any of the good things, I will say this:

Travel with them anyways.

Travel down the road.

Travel to the next city.

Venture across state lines.

Cross the country.

Cross the ocean.

Wherever you can go, however you can get there, however long you can stay, just do it. Take the leap. And when you do, cry when you need to, scream if you must, pull your hair out when there’s nothing else to do. You’ll probably do all of those daily while you’re away. But pay attention. Pay attention to their wide eyes of wonder, listen closely to their curious questions, relish in their clean-slate innocence as they experience the world for the first time. Play with them. Discover with them. Soak it up. It won’t ever be easy, it probably won’t be pretty, and that’s okay.

Travel with them anyways, long days and frequent tears be damned. Travel with them, knowing that travel, as with life, is often messy and beautiful at the same time. And there’s value in that too.

In fact, I’d say those memories are the most golden — the most worth it — of all.