My no means no…except when it means yes

Do you believe in magic?

There’s this odd little phenomena that occurs in my house wherein the children use magic and sorcery to consistently get what they want from me. Firm in my resolve to not be swayed, I wake up each morning prepared to stand strong against their wily ways and not back down when I say “No.”

It usually takes about a half an hour to break me.

They’re really good at this magic.

My oldest usually breaks the barrier of my resolve first. “Mom, can I have pancakes for breakfast for the 52nd day in a row? Please?”

Me: “No, honey. We’re going to have eggs and fruit today and take a break from pancakes.”

Oldest: “What about cereal? Can I have cereal? Please?”

Me: “No. Just eggs and fruit today.”

Oldest: “Can I just have one pancake on the side with my eggs and fruit? Please? Just one? Please, Mom? If I make it myself? Please? Please? Please?”

This conversation happens before coffee, mind you and before I’ve actually registered that I’m awake.

Me: “Okay, that’s fine.”

See what happened there? He broke me. He got past my firm exterior with his trickery and got exactly what he wanted. Score one for the children.

My daughter uses a slightly different tactic to get me to do whatever it is she wants me to do. It’s strongly resembles guilt and she is really, really good at it.

The girl: “Mom, can you play Pretty, Pretty Princess with me? Please? Just one round?”

Me: “No, babe. I have so much to do today. Maybe we can play later.”

The girl (falling to the ground dramatically): “But Mom,” she wails. “I have no one to play with. There are no girls in this neighborhood and I have no friends and I miss my friends in St. Louis and I have nothing to do and now you won’t play with me.”

You can usually find me sitting on the floor playing Pretty, Pretty Princess or UNO shortly after this outburst.

She is skilled at her magic.

The youngest doesn’t usually have to say much. He just has to look at me with his baby blues, which sit just above the cutest smattering of freckles you have ever seen and I’m basically putty in his hands.

Me: “Landon, you didn’t eat your breakfast/lunch/dinner (the kid’s not much of an eater) so no snack for you today.”

Youngest: “Okay, Mom. I don’t want a snack.”

Thirty minutes later…

Youngest: “Mom, I’m hungry can I have a snack?”

Me: “No, babe. You didn’t eat your meal. You can’t have a snack, remember?”

Cue alligator tears and pitiful sobs. “But Mommy, I’m thstarving. Pwease? Pwease can I have a snack?”

Me, wavering: “No. But I saved your food from breakfast. If you finish it you can have a snack, okay?”

Youngest: “Can I just take 3 bites?”

Me: “No, you have to eat it all.”

Youngest: “5 bites? Pwease?” He blinks his eyes at me, which are brimmed with tears and sends me into some sort of hypnotic shock.

Me: “Alright. 5 bites.”

I get a -1 just for being such a pushover...

Ten minutes later he’s munching on Cheezits and I can’t tell that he’s eaten anything off his plate at all. He’s good at what he does.

Even the dog manages to get in on this game. She sits on my feet all day just staring at me. When I look away, her large fox ears perk up and when I turn to face her she pins them pack all pitiful-like and opens her eyes wide. Like a cartoon caricature. She does this over and over until I oblige and walk her and I swear as we make our way around the block I can hear her chuckling and mumbling “Sucker ,” under her breath.

My husband is, of course, generally immune to the magic of their ways. His conversations with the kids go like this: “Daddy, can I have a snack?”

“No.”

“Okay!” Skips away to play.

What the?!

The dog doesn’t even attempt to whittle him down with her magic ears and big eyes. She knows it’s to no avail.

Of course he is not always able to escape their magical prowess. When Landon asks him to play baseball, he does so without ever breaking eye contact. His eyes round and big, he stares directly at his dad and says in a voice dripping with honey, “Will you frow da baseball to me, Daddy? Pwease?” He doesn’t blink, he just stares.

Sometimes I find my husband outside in his suit and tie throwing the baseball to all three children and I take the moment to sit down on the couch, kick up my feet, close my eyes and chuckle softly.

“Sucker,” I think.

Do your kids use magic powers on you?

Love, Marriage and the Stranger at the Bar

I got married about five minutes after finishing college. I felt so grown up and mature but really, I was a babe. I’m okay with this fact. I don’t regret the decision to marry young, nor do I regret starting a family shortly thereafter.

Mostly because this means I’ll still be young enough to kick up my heels and party when we get these kids shipped off to college.

And also because, you know, I love my kids and stuff…

Marrying so young means that I never experienced the dating scene. I met, fell in love with and married my husband in the span of about eighteen months. Before him I dated a few boys, but nothing serious. I don’t remember much, but I don’t think I would have been classified as a huge flirt in my younger years.

There was that unfortunate incident when I was seventeen on a yearbook trip to Kansas City when I took a boy up to my hotel room. I had impressed him with my Ace Venture impersonation. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen in the hotel room.

What did I think was going to happen?!

We sat on seperate beds and I jabbered nervously until my teacher knocked on the adjoining door. I shoved him under the bed and flung the door open totally trying to act natural all the while looking extremely guilty (because I was guilty…). She asked who was talking and I was all, “Oh that? Haha…um that was the…TV! I was watching TV. Becaaaaauuuuuse I have…a…headache! And I, um, wanted to get away from everything for a bit. But…you know…I’m just gonna head back down to the party so…”

Oddly enough I’m not sure she bought my story, but she was cool enough to raise her eyebrow, nod her head and say, “Yes. Why don’t you go back to the party. Now.”

Me and the boy without a name (what was his name?!) fled quickly and I never did anything like that again.

Impersonating Ace Ventura was a risky little game to play in the mid-ninties. But it was the only trick I had in my bag and it worked like a charm every time. Like I said, I wasn’t much of a flirt.

Last night I somehow managed to convince my husband to take me to a movie. He hates movies, but he loves me so he agreed. We saw The Lucky One. The movie was lame, but Zac Efron is pretty so I consider it time well spent. Afterward, we went to a restaurant to have a drink.

Sitting on the ouside couches, Lee and I enjoyed people watching. Apparently Thursday night is when ladies come out to this particular bar to meet men. This is something I never experienced so I always find it fascinating to watch people engage in this social dance.

“Do men really saunter up to women at a bar and flirt?” I asked Lee. “I thought that only happened in the movies!” My husband responded by laughing at me.

“I guarantee if I left you sitting alone at the bar for thirty minutes, someone would come up and hit on you,” he said. To which I responded with a laugh and utter disbelief. “Not tonight, of course,” he said quickly. “You’re not dressed right.”

I was wearing a skort and keds. A SKORT! It’s pretty cute, actually. But it screams stay-at-home mom. I didn’t know we were going to a fancy restaurant for drinks!

But really? I had no idea that happened in real life. I absolutely thought that only happened on the big screen. Naive? Maybe a little. Not that I care. Looking around I didn’t see one man that I’d want to come hit on me. Other than, of course, the handsome man sitting by my side.

I sometimes wonder if I missed a lot by marrying so young. There were definately things I could have experienced had I stayed single longer. But I don’t think I would have made a very good single because I didn’t see one single woman at that bar impersonating Ace Ventura. Not one!

I don’t think I would be good at playing the bar game…

And then it starts to feel real

I leave for Africa in 9 days. Single digits. I’m on a plane in just a little over a week. On a plane for a really, really long time. Really long time. (What does one do on a plane for eighteen hours?!)

And just today it started to feel real. Nine days is not very long and I began to really think about it and wonder and question the logistics.

I probably should have done that awhile ago, but I like to think life is more exciting when you have the added stress of NO TIME.

I got my second Hepatitix A & B booster shot yesterday. Let me tell you something – you haven’t lived until you’ve had a shot with three little faces peering intently at the nurse as she jams a needle into your arm. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fainter, right? I think I’m finally growing up because I didn’t even have to lay down this time AND I declined the sucker she offered because the kids were with me and I wanted to show them that shots are no big deal.

For the record, that was a risky little game I played. Had I hit the floor I could have scarred them for life. Sometimes you have to take chances, right?

“Whoa,” Landon whispered when Nurse Ratchet finally, mercifully, pulled the needle out of my arm and a stream of blood followed. “Dat is a wot of bwood.” Then he held my hand and kissed my cheek. “I wuv you, Mommy,” he whispered, genuine concern oozing from his crystal blue eyes.

You can’t have him, folks. He’s mine.

As we walked out, Sloan thanked Nurse Ratchet. “Thanks for giving my mom a shot so she won’t get sick and die and stuff,” he called. Die and stuff? What’s the “and stuff?” I decided not to ask…

I’m preparing for the trip in a lot of ways, but the one way I really need to prepare is scaring me. Physically I feel like I’m preparing fairly well. I’m taking vitamins and probiotics to hopefully get my immune and digestive systems toughened up. I’m working out semi-regularly so I can be somewhat in shape while we’re there. I’m inoculated against everything under the sun.

Seriously. I think I might glow in the dark at this point…

 I’m trying to get more sleep and spend quality time with the kids and I’ve got at least one date night planned out with my husband before I leave. I’m going to write the kids notes they can open every day and buy little Dollar Store trinkets to help them pass the time until I get home.

Those are the easy preparations.

It’s the inside that has me a bit on edge.

As I’ve spent time praying over this trip, I’ve asked that the Lord change me. Change my heart and change my perspective. But I’ve spent so much time preparing the exteriors that I don’t know if I’ve fully prepared my heart for what I may see and experience.

I don’t want to come home the same and that scares me.

It’s easy to prepare physically for a trip like this. But emotionally and spiritually, it’s a little more frightening. Part of me wants to put up a shield of protection and just go over there and write up an assessment of how Compassion International operates and how you can be a part of it.

Sharp shooter. To the point. Safe.

Self-preserving.

But I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be changed and challenged and pushed to a deeper knowledge of what it means to serve others. I don’t want to miss the chance to learn and further understand Justice, because I’m pretty sure my Western mind has a very skewed idea of that concept.

In nine days I will board a plane and I want to know I’m not alone in this journey. Join me, please? Would you pray for everyone on the team as we work to honestly and fully bring you stories of how you can (and how many of you probably already are) impact the life of a child in Jesus’ name?

This trip is more than an experience. It’s more than an opportunity. It has to be more than that, because it can’t be about me. How can we all collectively be moved to greater compassion for those in need? It’s a lesson I need to learn and I wondered if you’d walk the road alongside me.

Thank you for the kind words and emails that many of you have already sent. I can’t wait to take this journey together.

Happy Wednesday. 

Dare to take a second chance

Cheater.

Dirty tricks.

Evil Hatchet Man.

Low.

Every one of these words was once used to describe the character of Chuck Colson, a Nixon Presidential aide who became one of the first to go to prison after the Watergate scandal broke and President Nixon was forced out of office. Back when the political game was won using cheap shots and dirty plays (I know, I’m talking about it as if it’s in the past…), Chuck Colson led the pack in the use of shrewd tactics.

But then, something happened.

Yes, he got caught and for many years people dismissed the change in him as nothing more than one more trick. But it wasn’t true. Nearly four decades of relentless and tireless work for prisoners revealed that Chuck Colson had truly been changed from the inside out.

Chuck Colson knew prisoners because he had lived with them. He had been one. What does a man who experiences literal chains do when he is released back to freedom?

“I could never, ever have left prison and accomplished what has been accomplished but for God doing it through me,” Chuck once said. In 1993 he is quoted as saying, “I shudder to think of what I’d been if I had not gone to prison. Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it’s not prosperity or pleasure that’s important, but the maturing of the soul.”

Thank God for second chances.  And third. And fourth.

Our past does not have to define who we are today. Redemption is sweet and offered to all. For 36 years, Chuck Colson faithfully carried out the simple command of loving “the least of these.” His ministry, Prison Fellowship Ministry, fought relentlessly for prisoners who, just like himself, needed someone to give them a second chance. He developed work-release programs, marriage seminars, training for prisoners to help mainstream them back into society when they got out.

Chuck Colson was a champion for the outcast of society and in so doing, he changed the course of how prisons are run and prisoners are treated, not just here in America, but around the world as well.

Why do we complicate the message of Christ? Why do we water it down, twist and contort it into to something that is in no way recognizable or appealing to others?

Love.

That’s all it is. Love people and love them well. Love them not because you have to, but because you want to. Love them when they are unlovable. Loving people doesn’t have to be so scary, but sometimes it will be hard. Love anyway. The poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden and, yes, the ones who have brought harm – they need love.

Sometimes love has to be a choice – not a feeling. As our pastor said yesterday, “Sometimes you have to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Sometimes love is hard. But to give yourself over to loving the unlovable?

That’s character.

My husband spent a year under Chuck Colson’s leadership as part of his Centurian’s Program. Colson changed my husband. He helped shape him into the man and thinker that he is today. I am indebted to Chuck Colson for the way that he developed my husband into a leader who is quick to listen and slow to speak.

Chuck Colson was a man with a second chance and he didn’t waste a minute in using that second chance to change lives. What will you do with your second chance?

“We grieve that our brother, our founder, our inspiration is no longer with us. But we rejoice that Chuck is with Jesus, we rejoice as we reflect on his life and legacy and that we could be a part of that, and we rejoice when we think of all the redeemed in heaven who will greet him and thank him for the role he played in their salvation.” Jim Liske, Chief Executive Prison Fellowship Ministries

Faithful.

Courage.

Integrity.

Respected.

Set Free.

These are just a few of the words used to describe Chuck Colson in the days following his passing .  Second Chances…

Here is a great article on Chuck Colson.

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How to Succeed at Blogging: The Finale

We’ve discussed the rules of blogging and tips and tricks for making your blog easy to read. Now let’s talk about the question that burns in every new blogger’s heart: How do I monetize this thing?

First, you have to decide if you really want to monetize your blog. Because you don’t have to. If you want to keep your blog simple and free of ads, that is fine! However, you can still benefit financially from your blog even without running ads.

If you are interested in running ads on your blog, be aware that simply joining an ad network such as Google AdSense or Blogher, or any of the others, will not immediately make you hundreds of dollars.

I make enough off of my Blogher ads each month to buy 4.6 Starbucks - VENTI. Obviously that is worth its weight in gold, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a windfall.

There are other ways to benefit financially from ads, though. You can sell individual ad space in your sidebar on a month to month basis, which can quickly ad up depending on how much you charge. I have not done this yet mainly because I wanted to be in a position to really be able to offer advertisers a return on their investment (i.e. I wanted a higher volume of traffic). If you only have six visitors a month, most advertisers aren’t going to shell out the big bucks to rent space in your sidebar.

Weird, huh?

Most bloggers find that their largest financial benefits have come as an indirect result of their blogs. When you work online, you create a virtual resume that opens up doors of opportunity you may not have had otherwise. For me, that came in the form of writing for other sites (who paid me for my services, some of them very well), book editing and speaking. It’s through these ventures that I’ve been able to create some financial support for my family.

Blogging was simply the platform that got me there.

You can benefit financially in other ways, though. Are you a photographer? A kick butt blog, with regular posts that allow people to see that you consistently take excellent photos can bring in more clients. Are you a product reviewer? You may see the financial benefits of saving money as you receive free product to review.

As a quick aside, though, let me speak directly to those of you who want to review products. I encourage you to maintain your integrity when pitching product to your readers. Be honest in your reviews and be willing to turn product down if you know it’s not something you would be able to review with integrity. Don’t push product just because it’s exciting to get something free in the mail. Product reviews can be done really well, and they can be done really poorly. Aim for honesty and integrity and don’t sell yourself short!

Remember that if and when you do start earning money from your blog you need to handle it wisely. If you find that you are bringing in more significant amounts than 4.6 Venti Starbucks, you may want to hire an accountant who will help you run your business in such a way that Uncle Sam doesn’t come searching for you in the fall.

If you’re just starting out in this wide world of blogging and you wonder how on earth you will ever get your foot in the door, my suggestion is start small. Write for a larger site for free. Gain some experience and slowly begin to build up a resume. Like any business, networking is key to success. Try to get to know a few successful bloggers and glean from their experience and wisdom.

A couple of years ago I hit a wall with my blog. I was discouraged and frustrated. I felt like I was working my tail off with little to nothing to show for it. Then I met three amazing women who I had admired from afar but never had the privilege of knowing personally. The day after I met Danielle, Suzanne and Ria, I sent them an email and just put myself out there.

I wanted their advice and I respectfully asked for it and you know what?

All three of them wrote me long, sweet responses with some of the greatest encouragement I’ve ever recevied. Danielle even called me on the phone and spent 45 minutes just talking with me. She didn’t have to do that. She’s a busy lady, but she was willing to take the time and I now count her, as well as Suzanne and Ria, a dear friend.

Likewise, Janice spent a solid 30 minutes talking with me my first year at Blissdom just trying to understand how she could better help me accomplish some of my personal goals. There are bloggers who have walked this path before you who are willing to help. Be respectful and understanding of their time constraints, but also, don’t be afraid to seek out advice.

Their words of wisdom just might be the springboard to your success.

And with that, I will conclude my series on how to succeed at blogging. I know I haven’t covered everything and I’m more than happy to answer questions if you have any. I hope, however, that you’ve been encouraged this week as you prepare to take your blogging to the next level!

Happy Weekend!

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How to Succeed at Blogging: Part Deux

Time to ring your bell and let your blog be known!

Did you know that you have less than ten seconds to impress a reader when they visit your blog? If a reader’s eye isn’t immediately drawn in and their attention captured, they will leave your page faster than you can say “Minivan Moms Rule the World!The key is to get them to stick around.

We discussed it yesterday, but a good design will pave the way. Think of your blog design as the architechtural structure of your house. It’s the bones – the frame – and it immediately tells the reader, this place is cool and inviting or that’s the scary house that all the kids dash past.

You want to be the former, just so we’re clear.

Pops of color and an easy readable layout are key. Do your readers need an advanced degree to navigate your blog? If so, it’s probably time to scale back. It’s not about showing off all the design tricks you know – it’s about simplicity and functionality.

Want a few examples? I thought so! These blogs are fun to look at, easy to navigate and create an online atmosphere that makes you want to stick around and read more:

SimpleMom

The Nester

Angie Smith

How to be a Dad

And the list could go on and on. There are a lot of good examples out there so if you want to compete, you’ll need to invest something – either your own time if you know graphic design or, if you’re like me and you think that only people who have been sprinkled with magic fairy dust can navigate the jungle of html, you hire the job out.

Now, if design is your home’s structure, then writing is your floor plan. It’s the walls and the rooms that fill out your home and there are a few things you should always remember when writing a blog post.

First, brevity is key. My time is precious to me and is my number one commodity. If I click on a blog and the post appears to ramble on and on for eternity, I will leave without reading a single word. I simply don’t have time to dedicate long periods of reading at the computer.

And neither do you.

There is no hard, fast rule for how long a blog post should be and obviously they will vary, but my rule of thumb is to always try and keep a post 800 words or less. I do this because I know that as soon as I cross that 800 word mark, I’m losing your attention and I really want to honor your time by writing concisely.

Sometimes I go over, but not by much. If I hit 1,000 words I edit heavily or split the post up into a series.

The trick to writing an effective blog post is to lay it out in such a way that readers can skim it quickly. This means short paragraphs, zippy one-liners that are set apart, italics for emphasis and bold to break up the monotony. And every once in awhile, just for fun, THROW IN ALL CAPS FOR GOOD MEASURE.

Finally, if the design is your structure and writing the walls – photos and video are the beautiful pictures and decorations that make your website feel like home. Use large photos that capture the readers’ eye and draw them in. The better the photography, the more likely someone is to stay and browse awhile.

Video is also an amazing tool to engage your audience and it’s one that I don’t utilize enough. I have big plans and lofty ideas, but have yet to take the time to execute. If you love being on camera and editing video, though, then vlogging may be a good outlet for you to consider.

Check out Jim at Busy Dad Blog. There’s a guy who knows how to utilize video and photography in a way that keeps us all coming back!

Obviously there are some rules to how all of this works. Many of them are unspoken and some are painfully obvious. First, don’t plagiarize. This seems like common sense, I know, but it happens and it will destroy your integrity and any trust you may have built among your readers. Write well and make sure your words are your own.

Second, give credit where credit is due. If you got a blog post idea from someone else, link back to them. Don’t do this in order to get your back scratched in return. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. This also applies to using photography that’s not your own. Always cite where you got your pictures from if they aren’t your own.

Finally, be consistent. If you know you don’t have time to write every single day, then choose two or three days a week that you know you can maintain and post consistently on those days. People like predictability and they are more likely to keep coming back if they know they’ll be greeted with new material when they show up.

I’ve now exceeded my 800 word mark so I will end with this. Blogging is fun, so have fun with it! Make us smile, make us think, encourage us to dig deeper and dream bigger. Invite us into your rockin’ house here on Blogger Blvd.

Okay, I seriously need to wrap things up. How cheesy was that?!

Tomorrow? How to make money blogging.

How to Succeed in Blogging Without Even Really Trying

Monday night I participated in a live Spreecast hosted by Janice and Susan on blogging and the ins and outs of why we participate in this crazy online world. There were so many great questions asked and I thought I’d offer a few of my thoughts on the business of blogging.

I’ve been at this blogging game for a little over four years now and while I do not claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have been useful for me and, perhaps, they will be useful to you as well.

First, start by knowing why you blog. Are you just wanting to keep a family journal for long distance relatives to see and participate in? Do you want to gain a larger audience? Do you have a message you want to share? Do you have a business that you want to promote? It helps to write out exactly what you’re wanting to do with your square of internet real estate.

For example, my goal for this blog is to simply tell stories. Sometimes they are about my kids, sometimes my husband, but most times those stories are about me. Story telling is, and always has been, my creative outlet. I try to keep things light as much as possible because Lord knows there is enough heavy in this world to drag us all down. But on those occasions when life gets overwhelming and humor isn’t quick on my finger tips, I share deeply and honestly.

That is my mission. I know it and I’ve embraced it and I feel much more confident in my blogging.

Second, know where you want to go with your blog. Do you just want to stay small and private? That’s fine! Embrace it. Do you want to work with brands and review products? Go for it! Do you want to grow your audience and reach more people? Great! There are a few things you need to do to make that happen.

  • Write well. The prettiest design and catchiest title cannot make up for excellent writing.
  • Market yourself and make contacts. This is an area that I’ve really struggled with. I am not good at networking and marketing, much to my husband’s chagrin. But it is so necessary and there are different ways to do this. From blogging conferences, where you can interact with others face to face (gasp!) to Facebook and Twitter, there are a lot of ways to promote what you’re doing, but this leads me to my next point.
  • Don’t overmarket yourself. Don’t make every interaction about you and your blog. It’s annoying and a turn off. And please, please, please – do not leave comments on other people’s blogs promoting your own blog. That’s obnoxious and won’t gain you followers. (Unless, of course, it’s during an online event such as the Ultimate Blog Party in which such promotion is expected and welcomed.)
  • Offer to guest post for someone else. Many larger sites offer the opportunity for guest posters and it’s a great way to gain exposure.
  • Be nice. Don’t gossip online…about anyone. Not your mother-in-law, your husband, your siblings or another blogger. The same rule we teach our children applies to blogging, “If you don’t have something nice to say then, ‘Shh!’ Say nothing.” Don’t forget that your words live forever on the internet.
  • Interact with your readers as much as possible. When I have time, I try to visit the sites of the people who comment on my blog. I don’t always have time to comment back, but I do when I can and when that person comments again on one of my posts, I feel like I know a little more about her (or him). Make friends in this space because that’s what we’re here for - interaction and support.

The title of this post is completely misleading and basically a flat out lie, by the way. You can’t succeed in blogging without trying. Everything worth pursuing takes effort, right? Put in the effort, have fun, and don’t forget that there’s a whole lot of life to be lived offline. Blogging is an outlet, not life itself. Don’t allow those two things to get mixed up!

There are a few more things I’d like to say on this topic so I’m going to write another post tomorrow. There are things you can do in your posts specifically that keep readers engaged and wanting to read more and I’ll share those things along with a few more tips. On Friday we’ll discuss how to make money blogging.

If you have any specific questions for me, you’re welcome to leave them in the comments section or email me at kellistuart00 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

The best thing I’ve seen all year

Oh my dear friends. I am about to share something with you that will make your day. It might even make your week. Heck, IT COULD VERY WELL MAKE YOUR YEAR!

I stumbled across this while working on another post and it was so good I decided it deserved a post of its own. There is no reason to hide this glory under a bushel basket. No reason at all. So I halted what I was working on and started a new post just for all of you.

Folks, this song runs through my head all. the. time. Every time I’m scared, I start humming this. I listened to this cassette tape endlessly as a kid. I’d put it in my neon pink and green boom box and jam out and this song was one of my favorites.

Like an old friend or a warm, fuzzy blanket it washes away fear. This song has saved me over the years and now? NOW I HAVE THIS!

I feel like I found a gold nugget.

Watch it…watch it until the very end.

You. Are. Welcome.

Let’s all join together in a moment of reverent silence shall we?

Aren’t you glad you stopped by today? Does anybody else sing this song when they’re scared? Has anybody else heard this song?!

For one more piece of awesome, listen to this. There’s no video but this was my other favorite song on that cassette. You know you all wish you had been as cool as me…

Let’s party like it’s 1999

Normally I don’t jump on a lot of linkys because they intimidate the heck out of me, but I just adore the ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom and couldn’t resist partying with them this weekend. Especially because I get to party at home in my fat pants and without any make up.

However, there is currently a cold Margarita sitting right here next to me so this party’s about to start hoppin’!

This post is for all of you fellow partiers that are joining me from 5 Minutes for Mom. You can read a lot about me and my family on my About page, but I’ll add a bit here as well.

I’m Kelli and this is my blog. Obviously. I am a story teller and humor is both my defense mechanism as well as my outlet for simply enjoying this wild ride called life. The pages of this blog have evolved over the last four years as I’ve grown and matured as a mom, a wife, a writer and a friend. When you come here, I hope you laugh and walk away encouraged.

I try to keep things light-hearted around here, but every once in awhile life throws a curve ball and my posts become a little…heavy. Last summer, our family moved from St. Louis, a city we loved and adored, to Tampa, Florida. We love Tampa, we really do. It has a beach. Like an actual beach…not a patch of sand dumped in front of a pond.

But moving is hard and we still don’t feel settled. It feels like we are on the longest vacation ever in the history of all the world. But in the move we’ve found joy and laughter and a reignited passion for one another that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. We are being refined every single day.

I am homeschooling my kids this year. It’s been amazing. It may be the only year I do it, but I have been so grateful for the chance to gather my little ones under my wing and ride this wave of change together.

I am smack dab in the middle of writing a novel. It has the potential to be amazing. Or to totally bomb. I’m not sure, but I do know it’s a story that I’m supposed to tell and my characters are so engrained in who I am that it’s second nature to tell their stories.

My husband is extremely handsome. And that’s not an exaggeration – it’s a cold, hard fact.

I love Nutella. Like, maybe abnormally so. I would bathe in it. Is that weird? That’s weird isn’t it…

I love writing and blogging has been an amazing tool for me to expand myself as a person and a professional. Blogging has opened up a world of opportunity for me (some of it thanks to Janice and Susan who let me write for them on occasion and how grateful I am for it!). I have blogged from Austria, from Montreal and in three short weeks I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Tanzania on behalf of Compassion International.

I absolutely adore my job. Every day I’m in awe of what I get to do. Last night as my husband and I enjoyed a beautiful dinner on a palm tree lined street in downtown Tampa I proclaimed with delighted surprise, “I am an international writer. This is my dream job!”

And by God’s grace I get to do it primarily from my home where I can get up at a moment’s notice and play a rousing round of Pretty, Pretty Princess any time of the day. Because Lord knows I can’t resist my daughter’s huge puppy dog eyes.

It’s nice to meet you. Leave me a comment so I can hop on over to your place. Let’s party like it’s 1999 this weekend!

It’s Not Your Mama’s Wizard of Oz

The kids and I finished the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz today, much to their awe and delight. There is only one other book that we’ve read this year that has captivated their attention as much as this one and that was The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles.

This was my first time to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, too, so I was equally excited to dig in HOWEVER…

This may be the first time in the HISTORY OF ALL TIME that I liked a movie better than a book. Maybe because the movie is such a classic? But the book was a classic first, thus necessitating the need for the movie so what we’re left with here is a chicken or the egg situation.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was good, for sure. It was exciting and, for the most part, was very similar to the movie except for, ya know, the morbid violence and word pictures that left my six year old looking at me with saucer eyes and mouth hung open wide.

Do you know how the Tin Man became a Tin Man? The wicked witch put a spell on his axe so that every time he tried to chop something HE CUT OFF ONE OF HIS LIMBS. The local tin maker replaced each amputated limb with one of tin until, finally, the Tin Man cut off his own head and wound up being a man made entirely of tin.

OF COURSE.

Read that to your kids while they eat breakfast and see what happens. It’s fun.

Or there’s the part when the Wicked Witch of the West sees the four travellers (and her little dog, too) making their way to her palace and she sends out wolves with the command to tear them to pieces. Never fear, though. The Tin Man chops off the heads of every wolf that lunges forward until he is, at last, standing upon a pile of severed bodies and dismembered heads.

This is the part where Tia wonders if she really wants to see the movie.

But wait there’s more!

While traveling to Glinda’s palace in the South to (hopefully) (fingers crossed) return Dorothy to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas, the band of misfits runs into a most peculiar group of little men called The Quadlings. These men refuse to to let the group cross over the mountain that stands between them and Glinda and when they try, The Quadlings who, naturally, don’t have any arms, detach their heads from their bodies and fling them at the trespassers with brute force and might, bruising the now courageous lion and knocking the stuffing out of the Scarecrow.

Landon was all, “Wait…dey TAKE OFF DERE HEADS AND HIT DEM?!”

To which Sloan replied, “COOL!” and Tia looked at me with saucer eyes again.

I promised the kids we would watch the movie one morning next week to celebrate finishing the book. I also promised that we would not witness the dismemberment of a single person…well, except the Scarecrow. But I’d rather let them be surprised. Tia wasn’t sure about the movie, though, so I sweetened the deal with a promise of green popcorn (in honor of the Emeral City, of course) and lots of candy.

This should be fun.

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