It only took me 20 years

I have lived in St. Louis since I was 12 years old, minus the six years during and after college when I lived in Texas.  And in all that time, I never once visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  I’ve seen pictures and heard people rave about what a great place it was, but for some reason, I had just never gone.

Until yesterday.  When I found out how beautiful the weather would be, I quickly packed up the kiddos and headed out the door.  I have since found out that it would have been wiser to wait until today as admittance is free on Wednesday mornings, but other than that little misstep, it was the perfect day to go.  With a high of 84, it was very pleasant.  The kids had a blast looking at all the different flowers and exploring the rocky paths that crossed babbling brooks and quaint bridges.

“It feels like Narnia!” Sloan yelled at one point.  And it kind of did.  You know, minus the giant talking Lion…

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We saw the dinosaur exhibit. Landon wasn't sure about the T-Rex...

So he roared at it.

So he roared at it.

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I'm fairly certain those fish were large enough to swallow Landon whole - maybe even Tia.

I'm not sure if this was allowed, but my kids can hardly resist climbing a tree.

I'm not sure if this was allowed, but my kids can hardly resist climbing a tree.

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Landon with his Justin Bieber hair.

Girl and Boy Climb a Mountain…Barely

Our wedding reception was a heck of a party.  If I had to do my wedding over again, there are only two things I’d change.  Number one – the videographer.  They edited a bunch of footage out (who edits out footage of someone’s WEDDING!) and included some seriously cheesy background effects.

Seriously.

When Lee and I kissed after cutting the cake, they freeze framed us and the background turns to fireworks with wonky elevater music playing.

Ser.i.ous.ly.

Number two – I’d have an evening wedding.  We scheduled our wedding for 2:00, which means that people began leaving the reception way before I was ready to leave.  I wanted to keep dancing, keep partying, keep enjoying all of my very favorite people gathered in one place.

But as the crowd began to dwindle, Lee and I realized we needed to make our grand exit or there would be no one left to see us off.  Except, of course, for our wedding party of eighteen (who were contractually bound to do our bidding for however long we deemed it necessary).

So we prepared to leave.  But not, of course, before deciding to head outside to see what kind of damage had been done to our getaway car.  It was at that moment that my dad pulled us aside and told us to look outside the picture window at the Country Club grounds.

“That’s how you’ll be leaving today,” he said with a wicked little grin.  Our reaction?

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Sitting 100 hundred yards out on the expansive green lawn was a helicopter waiting to whisk us around the Arch and drop us off downtown.  That…was a good surprise.

So we prepared to leave.  But I didn’t want to leave.  So instead of running through the crowd of bubble blowing guests, we slowly meandered our way down, hugging everyone along the way, me crying like an ugly gopher…again.  I was terribly, terribly emotional.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the helicopter ride.  Again because I was crying!  Sheesh.  Poor, sweet Lee.  I managed to pull myself together by the time we got to the Arch though and my new husband no longer had a look of panic on his face as my tears subsided.

We headed out to the San Juan islands the next day for our honeymoon where we kayaked, sailed and hiked for a week.  The hiking would prove to be one of our first memory moments together as man and wife.

Our resort was nestled roughly a mile from the base of Mt. Constitution.  Three days into our trip, we decided to hike Mt. Constitution.  So we called the concierge and set everything up.  They would drop us off at the base and we’d make the trek up the hill moutain.  Our driver asked us, before dropping us off, if we were sure we wanted to hike the mountain.  We smiled and thanked him for his concern and assured him that we were indeed able bodied adults who were capable of climbing a little moutain.

His concern should have been our first red flag.  The second red flag came about twenty minutes into the hike, when we were still making our way to the actual base of the mountain (turns out he dropped us off about a mile away…nice) and a camper asked us what our plans were for the day.

“Oh, we’re going to hike Mt. Constitution,” we replied, all bright eyed.

“Wow,” she said.  “That’s ambitious.”

We rolled our eyes and went on our merry way.  See?  Look how happy I was.

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One hour into the hike, I started to get a little tired.  “I didn’t realize we’d be walking at a 90 degree angle the whole time,” I huffed to Lee. 

“It’s a mountain!” he responded.  “What did you think?”

“I dunno.  I guess I just thought it’s be a leisurely stroll.”

Two hours into the hike we ran out of water.  And pretzels.  Because we’d only packed one bottle and a small baggie.  Because we’re from the midwest.  It honestly never occurred to us that climbing a mountain would be difficult.  Not once.

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Three hours into the hike we were starting to get angry.  Surely we had to be close to the top.  We finally saw more human life coming down the hill mountain – it was our first human contact since “ambitious” woman.

“Are we close to the top?” I asked, trying not to look like I was dying, though indeed, I was.

The guy laughed.  He laughed.

“You’ve got another mile and a half at least,” he said with a grin, drinking his bottle of Evian.  Punk hiker with his punk water…

And so on we hiked, and we hiked and we hiked.  And just when we didn’t think we could take another step there was a clearing in the trees.  With a surge of energy, we powered forward and burst through as if we were charging the gates of heaven itself.  And we found ourselves looking over a breathtaking scene.  We had done it.  We were 400 yards from the summit. 

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We reveled in the beauty for a few minutes before turning and walking to the viewing area at the top of the mountain.  As we rounded the corner, I gasped.

“There is a parking lot up here!” I exclaimed.  “And cars are in it!”

“You can drive up here?” Lee asked.  “Why didn’t anyone tell us this?!”  It took several minutes for us to get over the fact that we could have just had the driver drop us off at the top rather than go through the pain and toil of hiking the 4.5 miles.  I imagine the driver laughed all the way back to the resort.

We looked over the edge of the viewing platform for a few minutes, then I turned to Lee and informed him that I would not be walking back down the hill mountain.  We had dinner plans in three hours and I knew there was no way we’d make it in time.  So Lee did what any respectable new husband would do.

He hitched us a ride.

We hopped in the back of a pick up filled with retirees who were beyond thrilled to help out a couple of naive newlyweds.  And we did indeed make our dinner reservation on time.

And that, my friends, was the last time Lee and I climbed a mountain.

To read the rest of our love story, click here.

Where Two Or More Are Gathered

10I was fifteen years old.  A sophomore coming out of a time of rebellion.  I was dealing with a lot of questions and deep hurts.  Some of the questions are still unanswered, some were the creation of youthful immaturity.  But the fact remains, my soul was ripe for harvest.

I was approached one Sunday afternoon about an upcoming mission trip to the former Soviet union with an organization called Student Venture.  “Would you like to come?” he asked.

I blinked.

“Let me ask my parents,” I replied.

How does one ask her parents if she can go to the former USSR for Spring Break? 

Turns out, I didn’t have to do much convincing.  My parents were not only supportive but were quite excited for me to take this trip.  I am indebted to them for their willingness to push my brother and I to experience life to the full. 

And so it came that in March of 1994, I embarked on a journey that would forever alter the course of my life.  And the man who led me on that journey was Gary Varner.  For two weeks, Gary led our team through the streets of Belarus, and on a side trip to Moscow.  Because we were not that far removed from the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, we were treated like rock stars.  It was baffling and exhilerating to be followed and clung to.  We visited schools and shared the Gospel of Christ, we put on night time events, we made friends, we traveled on public trams and buses, we visited Lenin’s tomb and stood before St. Basil’s cathedral, we played wicked April Fool’s day pranks and we laughed much but slept little.

I came home a changed young woman.  Suddenly life was no longer about me.  And I knew I would be back.  Not just because I felt an odd kinship to that area of the world, but because I couldn’t imagine a better way to serve, learn and grow than under Gary’s leadership.

Two more times, I returned to the former USSR with Gary and his wife Carol.  They became a guiding force in my life, pouring countless hours into my development as a young woman.  They prayed for me and with me.  They held me accountable and challenged me.  And they were a grand example of living out the calling of God with passion and zeal. 

I grew such a passion for that area of the world, in fact, that I decided to minor in Russian in college.  I even lived in Ukraine for a time, studying the language and reveling in a culture that has become like a second home to me.  Today, my children are learning Russian.

All of this because Gary took notice of my yearning heart and poured into me as a fifteen year old.  He didn’t have to.  He could have passed me over, assuming me too spiritually immature for such a trip.  But he didn’t.  He believed in me and he continued to encourage me throughout those very confusing years called adolescence.

Over the years, as life ebbed and flowed, I lost contact with Gary and Carol on a regular basis.  We kept up via the cyber world and through mutual friends and I learned how Gary’s ministry in Russia grew and expanded.  For some reason, the door never really opened for me to go on another trip with Gary.  Part of that was my fault – I let the business of life convince me that taking off on a mission trip for two weeks was simply too difficult.  Part of it was simply circumstances.

This past November, Gary was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  And he has been in a fight for his life since that moment.  A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to see my former mentor again – to soak up his wisdom and wit in person once more.  And I realized how much I had missed him.  And in the three hours that I spent sitting in Gary’s living room, he blessed me in a most profound way.

The cancer, and the treatment required to fight this particular brand of disease, has left him in a lot of pain and with little ability to do much other than sit, think and pray.  And, of course, pour into the hearts of those who come to see him.

When my friend Lindsey, who was with me visiting Gary, asked him what his times with the Lord have been like he stopped and thought.  “I can tell you what they haven’t been,” he said with a smile.  “I determined from the moment I heard the diagnosis that I would not ask God ‘Why.‘  It’s not my position to question the Sovereignty of the God of the Universe.  And to be quite honest, God doesn’t owe me any explanation.”

I’ve mulled over Gary’s words quite a bit in the last couple of months.  And I have fought the urge to ask the question myself.  But Gary is right.  God is Sovereign.  I don’t understand Him.  I’ll never understand Him.  For all of eternity, I will be in awe of Him.  So who am I to question His Sovereignty?

This Sunday, June 27  has been deemed an International Day of prayer for Gary Varner.  For over twenty years, Gary served overseas, working with orphans, teenagers, newlyweds, and the elderly.  He has been the hands and feet of Christ and the thousands who have directly benefited from his sacrificial love want to gather now on his behalf.

Would you consider joining with us in prayer for Gary this Sunday? 

Here are a few ways you can pray:

  • Pray for a miraculous healing of Gary’s body.  Medically speaking, the kind of cancer that Gary has doesn’t look good.  But we serve a God who is the Great Physician – the Gentle Healer.  May we pray with boldness, placing our urgent request before Him.
  • Pray for Gary and his wife Carol as they deal with the stresses of chemotherapy.  The regiment Gary is on now is brutal - pray for strength to endure.
  • Pray for Gary’s children.  His son, Lt Clayton Varner is currently stationed in Iraq.  Pray for his safety and return to the US in August.  Gary’s daughter, Jessica, is currently serving in Athens, Greece with Campus Crusade for Christ.  Pray for her safety and protection in that unstable environment.
  • Pray that Gary, who is also an accomplished writer and author, would be able to finish the second installment of his popular novel.  Outside of missions, Gary has a deep love for writing, but the chemo has left him unable to finish his book.  Pray that he would have miraculous moments of clarity throughout his days to be able to release the creative giant inside.  As a writer myself, I know and understand how desperate it feels to have pent up creativity and no way to release it.

I’m sorry this post was so long, but my urgent and desperate hope is that thousands of people would unite and lift this man up on Sunday and that together we would all be partakers in God’s unfailing miracles.

If you would like to join the thousands who will be praying for the Varners, would you do me a favor and leave a comment letting me know?  I’d like Gary and Carol to have tangible evidence of the working and moving of the Spirit through the faithful prayers of many. 

Thanks everyone!

One Year

One year ago I was doing a bunch of this on the beaches of Turks and Caicos:

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I wish I was back there right now…

Toy Story 3: Better Titled “Let’s Tear Mom’s Heart From Her Chest and Stomp On It”

Thank you, Pixar and Disney, for making me a blubbery, sobby mess.  Thank you for gently forcefully ripping my heart from my chest and using it to play ball for 109 minutes.  Thank you for making me so emotional that my husband, when asking what I thought about the movie, had to make a hasty retreat as tears shot out of the corners of my eyes like daggers. 

Thank you, Pixar and Disney, for Toy Story 3.

I took my kids yesterday to see the final installment of the Toy Story saga.  It’s been 15 years since I saw the first Toy Story.  I was a senior in high school.  Now I’m a mom of three.  And the message of this movie was not at all lost on me.  Especially given the fact that Tia sat on one side of me clutching her beloved Lovey Bear and Landon sat on the other, his Sock Monkey nestled snug beneath his arm.  I couldn’t help but look at those two little toys, both so loved and content at this moment.  What will it be like in fifteen years when they are cast off – no longer needed for comfort and companionship?

Excuse me for a moment while I go sob in the bathroom…

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It didn’t even dawn on me when we left the house that they were carrying those toys with them to the theater to see a movie about the fate of beloved toys.  But looking at my babies as Andy drove away on the big screen with his faithful companions left to watch his tail lights fade in the distance, I got so terribly emotional.  It doesn’t help that I’m slightly hormonal, or that it’s been a tough week parenting.

As we drove home after the movie, I glanced in the rearview mirror at these children of mine – children who I love desperately.  Time goes by so quickly.  Yesterday (or so it seems) I married Lee.  And then I blinked and it’s suddenly ten years later.  If I weren’t such a prim and proper lady I’d let out an expletive.  Instead I’ll settle for a simple, WTHHow does it move so quickly?

I read this on Nicole’s blog yesterday:

“When you’re holding your baby and he’s falling asleep in your arms slowly and the evening is slipping away and your mind is racing through the thousand things at the top of your list, and you begin to feel – as all fathers and mothers inevitably feel from time to time – that you’re wasting your time taking care of this little kid, try to remember that next year you won’t be able to hold him in the same way, he won’t go to sleep in your arms, and after a few more years, you’ll be happy to get a hug on the run. Our children are here to stay, but our babies and toddlers and preschoolers are gone as fast as they can grow up – and we have only a short moment with each. When you see a grandfather take a baby in his arms, you see that the moment hasn’t always been long enough.” S. Adams Sullivan, The Father’s Almanac

This parenting thing is hard.  “Enjoy it,” everyone tells you, “Because it goes by so fast.”  Even a bunch of animated toys told me the very same thing yesterday.  What no one tells you, though, is that sometimes you have to work really, really hard to enjoy it.  And that is, perhaps, what had me most emotional.  I know it goes by fast, I know I need to enjoy it, I know I need to cherish the moments because they’re over in the blink of an eye – but to be quite honest, I don’t always enjoy being a mom.  I love my kids, of course.  They are so much a piece of me that I hardly remember life without them.  But raising them…it’s hard.

Of course, it’s supposed to be hard now.  “Put in the hard work when they’re young so that when they grow into teenagers you can reap the rewards of that hard work.”  This is another piece of sage advice I cling to.  On the days when it feels like all I do is battle, I remember that it’s better to battle them now when the environment is controlled than to battle them as teenagers when the battlefield is full of hidden mines and has a much larger scope.

But I would be lying if I said that I enjoy every moment of every day.  Because I don’t. 

I do, however, enjoy more than I don’t enjoy.  Stay with me…Yesterday, and the few days leading up to it, was a hard day.  There were many battles, many fights, many tears.  And I was battle weary.  Today, this morning, has been filled with sweetness.  The kids have played together this morning without argument (and when I say argument, I mean screaming bloody murder at one another – sorry to any neighbors who were awakened by Sloan and Tia’s death match on the front porch Sunday morning).  They’ve been pleasant and sweet, obedient even.  And it hasn’t been a stretch to enjoy them.  Yesterday, I had to search a couple of times for ways to like them.

So I was partly grateful to Toy Story for reminding me, yet again, that the time I have with my children when they’re young is fleeting.  Yesterday was one day.  There will be more days like it – days when loving my children is easy but liking them is hard.  But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I dread this time in our lives coming to an end.  There are sweet days to come, moments to celebrate, birthdays to rejoice in, milestones to accomplish – but the days of them sitting in my lap, a stuffed animal tucked beneath their arms…those days won’t last forever.  And it’s those moments that I cherish the most.  I tuck each one away in the crevices of my heart.

And I will now commence to crying once more.  Dumb cartoon movie…

Happy Blistering, Sweltering, Melt Your Face Off Father’s Day

We celebrated Dad yesterday.  It was a day meant for eating, sleeping and watching golf, just how Dad likes it.  And so we ate, we slept, we watched golf and we enjoyed the day together as a unit.  We missed being with our own fathers – two men who are the hero’s that Lee and I look up to with all the esteem that can be given to men of wisdom and stature such as they are.  Without either of them in town, Father’s Day seemed a bit lacking this year.  But we still enoyed our time together doing what we love to do – playing together.

Of course, what better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to watch the US Open together?  And as we watched, Lee got the itch to go hit golf balls.  I wanted nothing more than to support his desire to do just that – but I also didn’t want to be left alone with the kids who were threatening my sanity, so we packed everyone up in our (rockin’ hot) minivan and trekked to the driving range.  And under the sweltering, blistering sun, we made a memory.

Or, as Landon put it, “We hit da baw hawd.”

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This smile comes from hitting the ball past the 75 yard marker.

This smile comes from hitting the ball past the 75 yard marker.

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I really, seriously, truly, madly and deeply love this family of mine.

Just call me MacGyver

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Alternately titled: Why I owe them some Kotex

Thursday’s are our crazy days.  A week’s worth of activities are packed into one afternoon and it requires me to be organized in order for things to run smoothly.  Me.  Organized.  Those two words next to one another are a bit of an oxymoron.  In fact, I recently wrote up a product review and giveaway for 5 Minutes for Mom in which I lament my organizational capabilities and I now have three calendars in my kitchen trying to help me stay on top of life. 

 They’re not really working, if you must know.  There’s this funny little phenomenon wherein you must actually look at the calendar ahead of time in order to know what you’ve got planned for the day.  Weird, huh?

So yesterday we tore out of the house at 4:35 to try and make it to Tia’s Russian class at 4:45 on time.  At 4:32 I remembered I needed to pack a dinner because we would go straight from the kids russian lessons to Sloan’s baseball practice.  So I threw some rolls, a few bananas, a package of ham and a chunk of banana bread in a plastic bag and off we went.

About 25 minutes before the end of the kids lessons, Landon grabbed my face and pulled it down to his.  “I pooped,” he whispered.  He didn’t need to tell me – the smell gave it away.  It smelled like death – warm death…you get the point.

And then I realized…I had forgotten a back up diaper.  I went out to the car to see if maybe, by God’s sweet grace, there was a diaper under a seat.  No luck.  And the smell was getting worse.  Let’s just say Landon had a bit of a stomach ache yesterday.  This hadn’t been the first, or even second, dirty diaper of the day.  It was foul.

So I took him to the bathroom in the church building where russian school meets and began coming up with a plan.  I swept my eyes around the sterile lavatory, trying to decide what I could do to remedy the situation until I had the chance to get a diaper.  Toilet paper and paper towls – surely I could come up with a reasonable solution using those materials.  Blast!  If only I had some scotch tape and a paper clip! 

I looked to my right and noticed on the wall were three small white cabinets.  I decided to look inside and see if perhaps there might be a diaper in there – I know, I was reaching.  The situation was getting desperate. 

I opened the first cabinet and found the jackpot - a large supply of Depends and Kotex.  Perfect.  I stripped Landon of the death wrap around his bum and cleaned him up, then grabbed a Depends and stuck it on the inside of his shorts.  But it wouldn’t stick.  In case you’re wondering, Depends are not very sticky on the bottom…just an FYI in case you ever need them.  Ahem.

So I grabbed two Kotex, pulled the stickers off the back and wrapped them around his waist, connecting them to the Depends to form somewhat of a diaper.  Unfortunately this meant they were stuck to his skin which was uncomfortable and made him walk like a mini-Sumo wrestler for the remainder of our time at Russian school.  I then hastily sent Lee a text asking him to bring us a diaper to baseball practice.

And that, folks, is how I have officially become the MacGyver of Mommydom.  (MomGyver, if you will)

*groan*

The end.

I didn’t know, but now I do

I was fifteen when I told my mom that I fully expected to have all boys someday.  “Why do you say that?” she asked as she pulled away from the movie theater where I had just finised watching Wesley Snipes slay the bad guys in Passenger 57 (I don’t know why I remember this detail so vividly yet for the life of me I could not remember scheduling a dentist appointment for myself this morning…).

“Because no matter how hard I try, I somehow seem to always end up alone with all the guys.”  I said this as if it were a curse.  But it seemed to me at the time to be true.  Looking back on it, I see more clearly what happened.  Yes, a large group of people were invited to see Passenger 57.  Yes, both girls and guys were included in the invite.  Yes, all of the other girls were smart enough to decline knowing that two hours of Wesley Snipes trapped on an airplane with terrorists sounded about as exciting as a jellyfish sting.

Ah, but in my youth I felt that it was nothing more than a sign from the universe that I was destined to be the mother of a motley crue of little men since I was obviously so inclined to be surrounded by them at all times.

Fast forward six years to my courtship with Lee when I found out the he was one of three boys, his father was one of two boys, his grandfather had all brothers and so on and so on.  For five generations this was the pattern.  Tucked in there somewhere was a cousin who had a little girl after three or four boys.  Needless to say, the Stuart men possess an abundance of the Y-Chromosome.  And this seemed to only further confirm what I thought I already knew – I was destined to be the mother of all boys.

I was really okay with this.  I didn’t much care.  Until, that is, someone made the comment that Stuart’s can’t make girls and that “hopefully I was okay with all boys”.  Well, I was but now I had a challenge and in my stubborn little heart I determined that I would create a girl out of sheer willpower.

(I wonder if that is why I was given the most stubborn little girl on planet Earth?  Huh…)

I am always careful not to minimize the blessing of a family full of boys.  There is a prevailing thought amongst society that somehow a family can’t be complete unless both genders are represented in the children.  While I will agree there are specific blessings that come with girls that are different from boys, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that had Tia been of the male persuasion I would have felt any less satisfied or enamored with that child.  All boys, all girls or one of each, the fact is kids are an enormous blessing. 

But I must say that there are a couple of things about having a girl that melt my heart.  They are things I didn’t know I would love.  Like cooking with my daughter and wearing matching aprons while we do it.  I didn’t know I would love that so much.

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But now I do.

Or the simple delight that takes over her face when I ask her to help me make dinner:

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I didn’t know I would love that…but now I do.

Of course the boys love to help me cook too.  But there is a different feeling that sweeps over me when Tia and I cook together.  It’s marked by the fact that deep down I know our cooking together is preparing her to one day cook for her own family.  It is more than fun, it is a mission and I feel deeply honored to share that with her.

I didn’t know I’d feel that way…but now I do.

I didn’t know how much fun it would be to see a little girl dressed in tights and leg warmers prance around a room:

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I didn’t know what it would do to my heart to have my daughter ask me to help her with gymnastics.  I liken it to the swell of pride Lee feels when the boys ask him to play basketball or baseball with them.

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I didn’t know how my insides would melt and flow out my ears every time she crawled up into her daddy’s lap and his eyes turned all starry.  I just didn’t know.

But now I do.

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Of course, I also didn’t know that little boys, when they belong to you, have the ability to make you love playing ball, talking Star Wars and searching for worms in a way you never thought possible.

I didn’t know this…

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But now?  Now I do.

Take me out to the ball game

Pretend that these pictures are from Sloan’s first game of the season.  Let’s pretend that this wasn’t the first time I actually remembered to bring my camera with the memory card in it.  Let’s pretend that I’m much more organized than that and that I would never actually forget to put the memory card in my camera until the season was half over.

Nope not me.  I would never do that.  Enjoy photos from Sloan’s, ahem, first ball game.

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Sloan is the only player on his team with a groupie.  We can’t decide if we should change Landon’s nickname from Bubba to Mini-Sloan because he wants nothing more than to be exactly like his big brother.  This means that whenever he can get his hands on Sloan’s uniform, he wants it on. 

It may possibly be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen…

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Play Ball!

Girl and Boy Become Man and Wife

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It is time to tell you the rest of the story.  Grab a steaming cup of hot tea, will you.  Sit back, kick up your heels and prepare to swoon.  Get your lungs ready because you’re going to heave a sigh of utter contentment in a few moments…

Okay, this story isn’t that great.  I might be exaggerating slightly.  My wedding was hardly a fairy tale.  There were no fluffy white bunnies who tied bows in my hair.  Tiny sparrows did not flit about my head whistling in perfect harmony.  Clothes-wearing mice did not sew my glistening white wedding gown and my groom did not break out in song when I walked down the isle (just the thought of that makes me laugh).

All of that would have been cool (except the mice part; clothes or no clothes, I don’t like those furry little creatures), but that is not what the day held for me.  It was, however, in the immortal words of Mary Poppins herself, “Practically perfect in every way.”  I was ready to marry the boy.  For eight months I had been his fiancee.  I wanted to be his wife.  I was ready to be a Mrs.  I wanted to walk down the isle on my dad’s arm and say “I do.”

And I did.

I am blessed cursed with plenty of neuroses.  But one thing I am not is a girly girl or a perfectionist.  This makes planning a wedding very, very easy.  I bought the first dress I tried on, because I loved it.  I tried on a few more, but I knew right away that the first one was it.  It was me.  It was simple, elegant and comfortable.  I also knew from past experience that I wanted to look natural.  I’m not a heavy make up person, because I’m well aware of the fact that too much make up makes me look like a child who played in her mama’s bathroom cabinets.  If I attempt the smokey eye I don’t look elegant so much as I strongly resemble a two cent hooker. 

And I’d had enough up-do’s in my school dance days to know that my hair in a French Twist makes me look like an ’80′s era creature from Alienation.

I like Daisy’s and Lilies, and I like photographs…and lots of them.  So the photographer and the florist were easy decisions to nail down.  I didn’t want anything elaborate.  I just wanted comfort and familiarity because as much as I wanted to marry the boy and as excited as I was to become his wife, I also wanted to be surrounded by the comforts of simplicty.  It made the idea of marriage seem less daunting.

So I stuck with my simple hair, my simple make up and my simple dress.  My simple flowers, my lots of pictures, my simple hors de veurs and wedding cake (none of that nasty raspberry filling stuff – nope, white cake, white icing…the way the angels like it).  But I felt anything but simple and ordinary.  I felt as if I had been adorned by woodland creatures and singing cherubs.  I felt…like a Princess.

To be honest, I remember few details about the day of my wedding.  I know I was up early all jittery and happy.  I know I had my hair done and my bridesmaids (all nine of them) had breakfast with me.  I don’t know what time we headed to the church or where everyone got dressed.  I do remember my grandmother making me laugh out loud at some point.

“Kelli,” she said, “I heard that you and all of your bridesmaids are wearing thongs today.”

“Uh…Mimi!  What?!  I…maybe.  I haven’t asked them…”

She stared back at me completely confused.  And my mom burst out laughing.  “They don’t call them thongs anymore, Mom,” she said.  “And yes, all the girls are wearing flip flops.”

Sweet Mimi.

I was a bit of a traditionalist when it came to my wedding.  I didn’t want to see the boy before the ceremony, I wanted the Wedding March played when I walked in and I wanted hymns sung during the ceremony.  Somehow that just seemed right to me.  And it all went off without a hitch.

Well…except for the tears.  I’ve told you about my penchant toward crying.  I don’t get the cute little single tear drop that streams down the cheek like you see in the movies.  Oh no…I cry like an ugly gopher.  And if I try to hold the tears in I end up bursting like the Hoover Dam.

So mid-way through the minister asking who would give this woman to marry this man, I broke.  And I was mic’ed.  Then I tried to laugh to cover it up, which only made me sound a bit like a machine gun filled with snot balls.  A blushing bride, I was not.

But sobby sobberson’s aside, the ceremony itself was beautiful.  My uncle and my high school youth minister, two of the most unorthodox, craziest men in ministry I’ve ever known, led the service and they injected the right amount of humor and sweetness to balance out my crazy.  The music was sweet, the boy was sweet (and terribly, terribly handsome in his tux with tails. Oy!)  And it ended with me becoming Mrs. Lee Stuart.  A name I was happy to take on and I am even more proud to bear today, nearly ten years later.

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After what seemed forever in photographs (We had a wedding party of eighteen!  We’re not good at narrowing down…) we hopped in our limo and headed off to the reception where we had one heck of a party and a huge surprise waiting for us.

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To be continued…

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