Casual Saturday + Travel + A Birthday

My posts from earlier in the week were drafted and prescheduled last month and, as such, didn’t address the events that unfolded at Robb Elementary School. I’m writing this in the wee hours of Saturday morning and don’t know the “right” words (can there even be “right” words at a time like this?), but I process life best by writing about it, even if my thoughts are incomplete and lacking.

On Tuesday I was traveling to the US and didn’t receive news of the horror unfolding in Texas until after we reached American soil. Media attention focuses on this specific, senseless act of violence (and rightly so, to both honour the victims and draw attention to the systemic issue of gun violence), but what about the hundreds of other events that happen daily – both in North America and around the world – that go largely unnoticed because of scale or location or the targeted victims? The heaviness of it all is palpable and yet I – (we?) – can’t deny desensitization to the pain and the grief and the injustice.

My life goes on.

I eat and sleep and work and play. I try to notice the little things and hug my kids more often but, if I’m honest, I still get irritated with their unrelenting questions and piles of dirty laundry. In one breath I express gratitude for the safety of my family, yet find myself complaining if someone forgets to replace the toilet paper roll.

I’m writing these words while my children sleep across the hall in warm, comfortable beds. At this very moment, hundreds (thousands, millions) of mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and husbands and wives and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends in the world are going to bed with hearts consumed by indescribable, all-encompassing grief perpetuated by war and abuse and violence.

My life goes on. But how does theirs?

I want my children – sleeping so peacefully right now – to grow up in a world where they spend their time at school playing FourSquare with friends and navigating monkey bars, not memorizing emergency drills.

As a Jesus follower, I pray – not just for the families in their grief, but also an ongoing plea for action; a permanent change that I believe can only come about in a world where people view their fellow humans the way God intends them to be seen – as creatures of infinite worth.

There is no good way to segue into my weekly update. I’m writing this from sunny South Carolina (visiting family); today is my 35th birthday, and we plan to spend it on the lake with my sister, her husband, and four kids. It has been almost 15 years since I’ve been down to South Carolina. We had a trip booked for May of 2020 but the pandemic forced us to shelve those plans. My sister and her family typically come to Canada every two years, but (due to COVID) it has been three years since we were together. Yet, somehow, it feels like no time has passed whenever we manage to see each other.

This same sister was also married on my birthday, so today is extra special as we get to celebrate both her anniversary and my birthday together for the first time since her wedding 23 years ago!

My birthday elicits similar emotions to what I feel on Mother’s Day. There is some socially prescribed response I feel obligated (yet fail) to generate: mostly lots of blissful introspection culminating in a grand plan for the future. I have neither to offer here today but can say this last year has been one with positive growth and it has been the best year (mentally and physically) for me since I became a mother. And that feels good. Lots of challenges but, overall, more contentment.

In terms of the week that was:

LAST WEEKEND | All sorts of prep for the trip; laundry, packing, and various jobs related to the upcoming renovations which are happening while we’re away.

We visited a new-to-us waterfall on Saturday (15 minutes from home; how did we not know about this?) and did a long woods hike (10 km) on Sunday after church.

MONDAY | I had an absolutely wretched sleep; I woke up too hot (we had a heatwave and I didn’t turn on the AC before heading to bed) and was awake for a long time.

We were ready to leave hours before our COVID testing slot, so there was a lot of impatient thumb-twiddling punctuated with periodic catastrophizing. This was my first time being professionally tested and can I just say – it was a lot more unpleasant than I was expecting. I thought I had been very thorough with my at-home tests but, based on this experience, maybe not?

Thankfully, our results were negative. With that stressor behind us, we got down to the business of enjoying our final day on Canadian soil.

Except I had a terrible headache from the lack of sleep and COVID test, and we were all mildly grumpy and anxious to get in the air.


We woke up at 5 am, grabbed the bagged breakfast at the airport hotel and shuttled to the airport by 5:45 am. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning and the excitement was palpable. It was Levi’s first time on an airplane and functionally Abby’s first time (she went to Europe as a toddler).

Security was a breeze and we made excellent use of John’s access to the lounge (he may lose his elite status next year – a tradeoff well worth it in terms of how wonderful his sabbatical has been for our family – so why not squeeze every drop of enjoyment and convenience out of it while we have the chance)?

Catching up on some sports highlights
Emailing her friends back at school…

Our first flight went off without a hitch. We arrived in Montreal with nary an issue. The lounge was great. The kids sat in recliners and watched planes take off and took crazy pictures with Photobooth and raided the lunch options. The weather was ideal. We had a very long layover ahead of us in Toronto as we had planned this trip meticulously to allow for a very relaxed trek through customs, and a few hours in the lounge.


We went to our gate and were in line for boarding when they announced an issue with the brakes. Admittedly functional brakes are a very important feature on an airplane, so we want them in good working condition, but the timing of this mechanical issue was not ideal. Long story short, our flight was delayed for three hours which meant the comfortable layover we had planned in Toronto evaporated. There was talk of canceling the flight entirely and all the other flights to Toronto were fully booked.

Thankfully, the airline located an alternate plane, but we were very behind schedule at this point.

We only travel with carryons which has huge advantages but it meant we now had four suitcases + 2 bookbags to manage. And we had to run. Full-tilt. Wearing masks. With kids that needed to use the washroom.

John has traveled through Toronto countless times he knew exactly where to go which saved us a lot of time. We RACED to security only to have 3 of our 6 bags flagged. We had taken bottles of water from the lounge…but those can’t go through the second round of security required before clearing customs. We KNOW better!! And to make this rookie mistake THREE TIMES over?

Next, we reached customs which had a skeleton crew working. By this point, I felt sick to my stomach. We were exhausted (we’d run well over a kilometer – with the kids and our luggage), and there was a very good chance it was going to cost us a day of our trip.

And then when it was our turn to speak to a border agent John received word our connecting flight to South Carolina had been delayed (another mechanical issue with a different plane). We made it.

And the rest of the day was awesome.

My sister and her family are just so…fun. They love to laugh. My three nieces have this incredible den-like dorm room that looks like something from a very fun, cozy magazine. Abby ended up bunking with them. It made me want to turn back time and live in this space.

WEDNESDAY | A low-key day.

  • I came downstairs (at 7 am!) to find Abby and my oldest niece (18) making chocolate chip cookies. We didn’t bake them until supper and they were the #BestCookiesEver (copycat Panera).
  • John and I did an early-morning 5 K run.
  • We visited the Columbia Public Library (once voted the best library in the US, I believe)? I picked up The Anti-Diet (by Christy Harrison).
  • The kids went to the neighbourhood pool and I took a long walk with my teenage niece who graduated from high school this month. (Where did the time go? She was just an infant. Time flies, y’all.)
  • There was a lot of “Ya’ll!” said this week. I countered with many “Eh’s?
  • Levi went fishing (unsuccessfully) with my nephew; he also caught a frog and lizard. We played a lot of catch in the backyard.

THURSDAY | *The photo credits for Thursday belong to my sister, nieces and John.*

The kids stayed back with my sister while John and I toured Savannah. I’ll do a separate post on Savannah another time (complete with hits and misses – there was a mix of both), but here are a few sneak peeks.

Meanwhile, the kids lived their best life at the Riverbanks Zoo, followed by some more fishing in the neighbourhood pond for Levi.

FRIDAY | Family from Greenville (an aunt and uncle + their spouses and a cousin) came to visit. The day was filled with lots of good (nay, amazing) food, talking, and hours spent tubing and boating on the lake.

A family friend (and faithful blog reader; Hi Kelly!) joined us for supper; I’m working hard to convince her to fly up to Nova Scotia this summer for a visit.

You know how people say pictures don’t do this justice? A picture doesn’t do this meal justice (and it also fails to show the incredibly delicious PB Reese’s Cheesecake my sister made for dessert).

A very busy day/week where I’ve been staying up too late and sleeping too little and eating too much, but it has been wonderful.

Life is short. And precious. Everyone’s.

Header photo by Natallia Nagorniak on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Casual Saturday + Travel + A Birthday”

  1. Thank you for sharing. I spent way too much time of my workday yesterday googling bulletproof clothing for children- what has society come to??
    I too find comfort in my faith and the hope of salvation.

    1. I’m sorry, Sarah. That isn’t something any mother wants to consider and a very sad reality.

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!! I am so glad you were able to make the trip – albeit with airport drama, what would a trip be without terror that you’re going to miss your connection or similar. But all’s well that ends well and I’m so glad you were able to go. I have always wanted to visit Savannah – someday I will!

    1. Thanks, Nicole.
      It does almost feel like there is an obligatory level of drama required to fly anywhere; just the same, I’d prefer to do without it. But WE MADE IT! Cue jazz hands.
      Savannah came so highly recommended; we’re glad we went but if I had to use one word to describe the city, I would say underwhelming (with some big caveats I’ll plan to blog about some day).

  3. Happy Birthday! That looks like an amazing trip. Savannah is a beautiful city (I’m looking forward to more details.) And all the delicious food and time spent with family- it sounds amazing.
    From what I understand, Canada has a large gun-owning population but doesn’t have these mass shootings because there are laws in place that prevent MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE FROM OWNING GUNS. Something is seriously, seriously wrong with the way we’re doing things in the US. It’s so frustrating- I have no idea how to go about fixing this. Of course nothing we do now will “fix” the fact that these parents lost their children like that.
    But I don’t want to be a downer! We all should fully appreciate our short, precious lives. Enjoy the rest of your trip- I can’t wait to hear more about it.

    1. Thanks, Jenny. Savannah was beautiful; as I told Nicole I found it underwhelming but maybe because of the level of hype we’d heard about it before? It has been such a nice time to reconnect with family.
      Canada is not immune to gun violence; sadly, the largest mass shooting in modern Canadian history happened in April 2020 just a few hours from where I live (22 victims). It is a global issue and one that is horrifying and frustrating that it is so prevalent.
      Heading back to be with family now!

  4. Was yesterday – the 27th – your birthday? Happy birthday! And happy anniversary to your sister and BIL…. Jon and I share their anniversary date. We celebrated our 16th yesterday.
    I am so glad you were able to travel and see your family. I know firsthand how special this is, especially after the last 2+ years! Hope you soak up every minute.

    P.S. And regarding the shooting: yeah, it’s hard to process this fully without realizing how many awful things happen in the world EVERY SINGLE DAY… we as humans don’t have the capacity to grieve and process the full scale of these tragedies anymore that we’re confronted with in the news every single day. Oof.

  5. Happy Birthday (and anniversary to your sister and her husband)!
    I’m so glad y’all were able to make all your flights and visit with your family.
    The gun violence HAS to stop – I don’t know the solution but I do know that what we currently have in place isn’t working. Also, we need to look at mental health and how to deal with that.

    1. Yes, I guess the silver lining of it all is that I fit in lots of exercise 🤦‍♀️

    1. Yay! Looks like you’ve had some great water-based adventures lately at the pool. We spent all day yesterday at Sullivan’s Island Beach. It was lovely!

  6. Oh my goodness, aside from running through the airport not knowing if you would make your connection, this sounds like a WONDERFUL trip. So glad you are surrounded by family and fun.

  7. Wow, it sounds like you have had a wonderful trip despite the nerve wracking journey to get there. Thank goodness you had such a long layover planned in it sounds like that was very fortuitous for you all.

    I am struggling to comprehend what has happened in the US. As a Brit our gun laws are very strict and mostly down to the last school mass shooting we had here in 1996, there have been two since then but neither were in schools. Guns are not part of our culture, there is little to hunt being the densely populated island that we are there are few truly wild spaces.. There is grouse shooting but it is very controlled and is the domain of the very wealthy. I do hope that wise decisions are made going forward.

    A belated happy birthday to you.

  8. It was a sad, heavy week for sure. I am envious of the gun control legislation that I heard about this morning on the NYT podcast. There is no hope of something like that passing here ever. Maybe we need to move to Canada?? It will never happen but a girl can dream.

    I am so glad you guys made it to SC! You are so close to Charlotte where I lived for a year. I went to Savannah for a long weekend and really liked that city. I loved all the parks/squares throughout the city. And the trees and flowers were gorgeous when I was there in March.

    The plane travel sounded exhausting and stressful, though! Plane travel is so horrible right now with all the delays and such. I haven’t flown much since the pandemic but of the 4 flights I’ve taken this spring only 1 was on time and just barely.

    1. There are lots of challenges in Canada too; there is a very different mindset on guns and gun control, but as I mentioned in another comment, the worst shooting in Canada happened in 2020 just a few hours from where I live. I don’t take it for granted and I’m thankful for the relative safety of where I live while understanding how precarious the world can seem at times.

      We flew in to/are flying out of Charlotte. The squares are beautiful in Savannah and make it very nice for walking as traffic is never rushing too far since there is constant maneuvering around all the green space.

      I always get excited about plane travel as it does feel like part of the adventure and then every single trip I remember that it is actually so exhausting and miserable. But we made it and the things that go wrong often make the best memories…

  9. Gosh, all of that plane travel and rushing through the airport sounds so stressful! I usually always check my luggage, even though I know it’s easier to carry on. But I just hate the feeling of having to keep track of my luggage on the plane and especially trying to shove in my suitcase in the plane. I like that I can just stroll through the airport with just my backpack and I’m good to go.

    Savannah is my very favorite city and I would move there in a heartbeat! It’s just so dang pretty. I’ve only been in the fall/winter, though, when the weather is great. I’m sure it feels a little different being there in the summer!

    1. It WAS stressful, but it does make for a good story. If we had missed a flight (and had to delay our trip by a day), I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune.

      There are big perks to checking baggage, but we always just do carry-on now. John has travelled enough to see all the pitfalls of checked bags. We actually thought we were going to get stuck en route home as well and I kept thinking “I’m so glad we have our luggage.” I know some people that check bags but travel with one outfit in their purse/bookbag just in case they get separated from their bags.

      Sigh. Savannah was very “meh” for us but I’m feeling bad about my conclusions now and thinking more and more that we need to return and give it another try. I’m blogging about it tomorrow, but I think it was just a perfect storm of high expectations and a few big disappointments that just made me feel…a little less enthusiastic than I expected. And it was HOT when we were there, for sure. I was sweating buckets 🙂

  10. I am so sorry I never commented on this and then my week went all sorts of bonkers… so even later than usual! Anyway, sounds like a good trip to see family, with the exception(s) of the flights there, and the disappointing Savannah excursion. I hate it when I get my expectations up for something and then…well, it doesn’t ‘live up’ to those expectations. Or, worse, when the location, or reason, of a trip does live up to expectations (e.g., beautiful location, or seeing family when I haven’t seen them in a long time) and something happens to derail that (story of my life for travel this year…). All that to say, I hope that the time with family was fabulous, that you got home in one piece (or, I guess, four intact pieces :>), and that your later-summer travels are better.

    1. It was honestly all part of the experience – from the flight delays to Savannah and I wouldn’t really change a thing!
      It was a great trip and we made memories that will last a lifetime. What more could I ask for?

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