Archives for August 2013

Win 4 Tickets to the Tampa Boat Show: A Giveaway


There are few things I love more than spending an entire day on the water. I love the sound of the ocean lapping up against the side of the boat. I love the way the seagulls shout their praise from the skies. I love that when we are on the boat, we are together.

Boating with family is basically forced together time. There’s nowhere to go. If you’re on a boat, you’re required to actually interact with one another. Basically, boats are the minivans of the sea. There’s no technology to distract you, no separate rooms to escape to…at least not on the boats I’ve ever been on. Boating is, perhaps, one of the best ways to enjoy being together as a family. It’s fun, relaxing and the scenery can’t be beat.

Living in Florida, it is imperative to either own your own boat, or be friends with someone who has a boat. I mean, I guess imperative might be a strong word, but it’s a shame to be surrounded by ocean and never have the opportunity to float on said water. Which is why The Tampa Boat Show is kind of a big deal.

See how happy he is to be on a boat?!

See how happy he is to be on a boat?!

The Tampa Boat Show is the region’s premiere boat show, showcasing the best of boating plus the latest marine accessories and aquatic activities. I love going to boat shows because every year the gadgets for boating get cooler, plus the boats are so shiny and pretty. Honestly, boats are better than minivans, mainly because minivans usually smell like moldy sandwiches and stinky feet while boats smell like paradise.

Ride on a boat, then ride in my minivan and tell me I’m wrong.

In addition to seeing and experiencing all the latest and greatest that marine sports have to offer, The Tampa Boat Show offers attendees the chance to have a little bit of fun. John Hillstrand from Discovery Network’s Deadliest Catch will be on hand for interviews, guests ages 10 and older can try their hand at diving in the heated 15,000 gallon Be a Diver pool, and attendees can experience seminars and different interactive learning events throughout the arena.


The Tampa Boat Show is coming to the Bay Area September 6-8. Tickets are $12 for adults ages 16 and up. Children 15 and under are FREE when accompanied by an adult. This makes the event the perfect weekend outing for families as you look, dream, and enjoy all that boating has to offer.

If you’re in the market for a new boat, or are simply interested in seeing what is new and cutting edge in the world of marine life, then I highly recommend The Tampa Boat Show. The good news is, I get to offer four tickets to one lucky reader today! Simply leave me a comment, any comment, and you will be entered to win four tickets to the upcoming Tampa Boat Show.

You can tell me your favorite boating memory or why you think boating is the perfect family activity. You can tell me your favorite color or your dog’s name, or the name of your favorite Aunt.

The point is, any comment will do, and if you’re anywhere near the Bay Area, you should enter because your chances of winning will be pretty good!

Comments will remain open until tomorrow night, Friday, August 30 at 5:00 PM, at which point I will draw a winner. Be sure to check your email to see if you won so that I can get your information and get the tickets in the mail to you quickly. And please share this with your local friends!

So who’s ready to start boating?


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I received Complimentary tickets to the Tampa Boat Show for my participation in this giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.

Insta-Wednesday: Jet Lagged

Is it possible to have First-Week-Of-School jet lag? BEcause I think I have it. I went to bed at 8:30 last night. No, scratch that – I fell asleep in my bed with the light on and a book in my hand at 8:30. I woke up at 2:00, turned off the light, and immediately fell back asleep.

When my alarm went off at 6:15, I felt like I could sleep another three hours. I still feel like I could lay down, close my eyes and be back asleep in an instant.

This getting back in the routine is killer.

So while I attempt to wake up, how about enjoying a couple of Insta-Wednesday photos, eh? If we were sitting here together, I’d offer you a cup of espresso.

This what I wish I was doing right now. Today. At this very moment.

This what I wish I was doing right now. Today. At this very moment.



Daisies make me happy.

Daisies make me happy.


Fourth Grade. The year they learn the recorder. Friends, there isn't enough coffee or alcohol in the world to numb to get parents through this momentous event...

Fourth Grade. The year they learn the recorder. Friends, there isn’t enough coffee or alcohol in the world to numb to get parents through this momentous event…

Again with the daisies.

Again with the daisies.

Happy Wednesday to you all! May it be full of sunshine and flowers, and devoid of all recorders. Amen?

And we all said amen…


Admiration vs. Adoration: A Lesson for the Culture of Fame


Two nights ago, Miley Cyrus put on the performance heard ’round the world when she gyrated and…um…twerked (I just…I don’t even know what that means. Because I am old) on national television in her skivvies.

I had no idea all this was going down, of course. See above comment about being old. I was too busy folding my laundry and watching HGTV. I didn’t even know the VMA’s were on at the time…lucky me.

I heard about it the next morning, though, as the internet blew up with images of the former teen star that left me feeling like I needed to bleach my eyes. I left the computer so very, very sad. I won’t say much more about Miley here because enough has been said about the unfortunate “coming of age” performance already. Personally, I’m a fan of Annie Down’s take on the matter and I would love for you to take a minute to read her thoughts.

They’re the same as mine, only more eloquent.

As I’ve digested and, quite frankly tried to forget, the images I saw of her performance, I’ve found myself increasingly disheartened and saddened by this culture we’ve created that builds gigantic platforms for our youngest and most vulnerable, placing them high for the world to see, then watching and cheering as they touch the sky…and more often than not come crashing back down.

Fame is an ugly beast, and a pedestal is not place for a child, or an adult for that matter. Emily Freeman said it best in her post, “One thing that will make your soul explode.” Our souls weren’t created for fame. God did not intend His most prized creation to be lauded and loved, worshipped and adored, held on high as an example and role model.

Such sentiments were to be reserved for Him. Man (woman, child) can’t handle that pressure, because we simply weren’t created to handle it.

A few weeks ago, news broke of Cory Monteith’s accidental heroine overdose. I’ve long since stopped watching GLEE, but still my heart dropped with the knowledge that this young life was cut short and for what? Why?

Britney, Miley, Amanda, Lindsey, River, Cory, Heath, and the list could go on and on. Last night, I Googled “stars who died of a drug overdose” and came up with a list of 245 names.

And that’s just the ones who died.

Kids like Miley are thrown into a system that produces stars, and in front of the world these kids have to figure out who they are, what they believe, who they want to be and how to do it all while people scream their names. Who’s looking out for these kids? Who is standing on the side, brows furrowed, shaking their heads furiously at the foolishness of it all.

It’s not the people who are close to them, and this is something I struggle to understand. And yet, I cannot assume that I would be any less blinded by the allure of fame if it were presented to me or my child. I get it – I really do. If you have a talented child with a love for performance, as a parent you want to see that grow. But there has to be a stopping point – there has to be protection, and at some point we have to realize that too much exposure is simply not a good thing.

There’s a fine, but sure, line that stands in between admiration and adoration. I admire the talent of many people. I enjoy watching good movies and exciting television shows because I admire the creative talent of the entertainers. I get chills when I hear a stirring song and sometimes, when I close a book, I hold it for a very long time, wishing it didn’t have to end.

I admire many people. But what happens when admiration changes to adoration? What happens both to me, and to the person who is now being adored?

Miley Cyrus has been adored and her pedestal was thrust very high before she had the balance to stay on it. Shame on the system that put her there. Shame on the fans who adored her more than admired her.

I think it’s time that those of us who aren’t blinded by fame to start doing our part to protect these kids. It seems impossible to think that we could have any impact on the Hollywood culture that makes stars out of preteens, but we can do little things like teach our own children the difference between adoration and admiration. We can show our young ones that the arts are to be celebrated and admired, not worshipped. 

Perhaps it’s time we stopped giving in to this culture of fame, holding it up as if it’s something to be worshipped. Fame is a smoke screen, and our children need to know that. It’s not funny when a young star falls from grace. It’s time we stopped laughing it off, shrugging our shoulders and assuming it to be just one more misguided youth. We’re better than this. Our culture, our kids, our young stars – we’re all better than this.

We need to be better.

When the land before you seems dry


This was a summer of healing for me.

As we close it out, I find myself somewhat reminiscent of the last few months. They’ve been good. Really, really good.

For reasons I can’t explain because I don’t understand, God has led me to a place in life that feels very dry. It goes beyond the terminated adoption. There are other hopes – other desires – that have been removed. The big prayers that I’ve uttered for over a decade all fell apart at the same time. Literally on the same day – January 11. 

I’ve built an altar on that day as I think it’s important to remember the place of destruction because I still have hope that dreams can be rebuilt. Perhaps they’ll look a little different. Maybe they won’t be what I thought they’d be, but I don’t believe God will leave me in this wilderness forever.

Adding to what has felt like a very dry time has been the fact that for the first time since I was fifteen I have no contact with Russian speakers. No day to day contact, that is. When I first went to the former Soviet Union as a fifteen year old, I had no idea what was in store for me, but I realized almost immediately that I was supposed to be there.

Since that time, no matter where I’ve gone or lived or traveled, I have always been in contact with Russian speakers. Even when I went to Tanzania last year with Compassion International, I met a Russian girl in the airport and shared a lengthy conversation with her. This is what has always seemed to happen.

Everywhere we went, Lee and I would run into Russians and Ukrainians. From my time working at WOGA in Dallas, to our many years at the  Russian-American school in St. Louis, I’ve always had the opportunity to listen to, and speak, the language that is so magical to me. Even after moving to Tampa, we met a sweet Russian woman and got to be quick friends with her and her family. We went to birthday parties and spent time on the ocean, and it seemed that, once again, I had tight community with the people I love so dearly.

Unfortunately, these friends had to move rather suddenly, and right around the time that the adoption fell apart, we lost contact completely. Since that time I have not run into a single Russian speaker. I haven’t even heard the language.


It’s so strange to me, really. Why did God give me such a love for this language, such a heart for adoption, such a longing to be a part of His story in a child’s life only to take it all away, all at the same time?


I have questioned God and doubted Him this year. I’ve been disappointed in Him, so very disappointed in the way this part of our story has played out. A few months ago I would have been scared to admit those things publicly. I would have tried to water down how extremely angry and sad and frustrated I was with this God in whom I’ve placed so much trust. What do such doubts and attitudes say of my faith?

You know what it says? It says I’m real. For the first time I couldn’t coast on a blind and unassuming faith. I needed to swim a little in the fire of doubt to see if my faith in this God I proclaim to love could withstand the heat. It did, but there were some dark days inside the refining fire. Days when I didn’t know if God really could be good, when I couldn’t see any beauty or grace in the current landscape of life.

Many days I could utter nothing more than the words “I don’t understand” while hot tears dripped off my chin.

But I don’t have to understand. This is where the healing has come into play this summer. I don’t have to understand, and I also don’t think this is the end of the story. I think these things have been removed for a time, not forever. I feel peace right now. Genuine peace. I’m still sad, and I still cry at the drop of the hat, but I’m not devastated.

God continues to be silent right now. He is not speaking in a tangible way that makes sense…yet. I’m still walking through the desert, but there is actually a lot of beauty to be seen in the desert, and I mean this both literally and figuratively. My friend Jenni spent several months in the desert earlier this year and the photos she took there are some of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. God created so much to see in the dry places.

In the same way, there’s been a lot of beauty in these last eight months, and there have been moments filled with the joyous beauty of laughter, an emotion created by God to empty the dark corners of the soul for a brief moment and fill them with light.

If I sit still long enough to catalog it, I’m almost shocked at how much grace I’ve been given in what has been such a difficult year. This desert isn’t completely void of good things. I can now honestly say that I’m thankful for these dry months. They aren’t over, but I don’t feel like I’m lost anymore.

If you’ve found yourself in a desert place where life feels overwhelming and hard, can I encourage you to hang on tight? The road may be long and you’re undoubtably tired and weary, but don’t give up. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to ask why and it’s okay to not understand. This life is a mysterious path of winding roads and bramble paths, but in the midst of it all, if we’re willing to look for it, there’s so much grace to be seen and felt and pulled in tight. Whenever you can, look for the beauty.

And if at all possible, try to laugh out loud. Laughter reveals a whole lot of pretty things in this world.

Blessings to you all today.


Insta-Wednesday: School’s In!









Our last day of summer was idyllic. We went to the beach where we played, collected shells and swam in the ocean with the dolphins who were feeding not fifteen yards from where we stood. The water was clear and cool and sweet and it was just an awesome day.

Then reality set in. If you’ll notice in the “thumbs up” picture, Tia looks less than thrilled. She did not have a good first day, but I suppose that is to be expected. She’s not a huge fan of school in general. She tolerates it at best. It will take her a few weeks to settle into a groove. Hopefully.

Now I’m off to do a little work, and by work I mean get dressed and go to IKEA.

Happy Wednesday everyone! 

First Day of School 2013

Alternately titled Mama’s Gonna PARTY!

Yesterday we bid adieu to summer with a trip to the beach. It was awesome and perfect and lovely and beautiful.


Last night, the kids were bouncing off the walls, a combination of nervous energy and extreme fatigue. Everyone was in bed by 7:45, lights were out at 8:00 and I didn’t hear a sound from anyone.

It was a modern day miracle.

Today they woke up ready to go. I didn’t have to wrestle anyone from their beds. There were no tears. Clothes were changed quickly and teeth were brushed. I’d made their lunches the night before and I had already prepared pancakes so they just had to be heated up.

This is the most prepared any of us will be all year.

I mean, seriously. It was almost exhausting being that prepared.

Give us a week and we’ll settle into a nice groove of WHERE ARE MY SHOES?!




For now, I’m relishing in the beauty of a peaceful, simple morning. And now I’m sitting in my big, fluffy chair by the back door, looking out across the pool while I sip my hot tea. In silence.

Modern day miracle.

Of course all this silence will get old, which is where my playlist will come in handy.



The Playlist

playlistTomorrow I will put my three children on a school bus and ship them off to a building that (if I’m being totally honest) looks a bit like a prison. They will be gone five days a week for a solid seven hours. In case you’re new here, you should know that I only have three children right now. So that means that for the first time in a decade, my house will be devoid of sound for a routine amount of time five days a week.

That is scary. If I’m going to be totally honest one more time and as blunt as I can possibly be, I’ll tell you that it’s scary as H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS. 

If I think too long about sending all my babies off to a prison-like building inside the belly of a giant yellow bus, I feel a slight panic attack start to rumble somewhere in my gut. It kind of moves around before settling like a giant weight. If I’m super lucky, that weight will push itself up into my throat where it will expand until I can’t really breathe, at which point my eyes will involuntarily fill with tears and my heart will race and I’ll wonder if 10:00 am is too early to start drinking.

So instead of thinking about ALL THE QUIET, I’m thinking about fun stuff.

Like that fact that Lee and I are going to go to Busch Gardens on Friday just the two of us so we can ride all the roller coasters as often as we want without small people whining at our feet.

I’m also thinking of an IKEA trip where I can slowly meander through the aisles without worrying about having to buy a broken vase because someone couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

I’m considering a Tuesday morning Bible study for the first time in ten years because I will finally have the time to attend and the quiet moments of my days to think.

I’m looking at that pair of jeans that fits a littler more snugly than I prefer and I’m envisioning the time I’ll have to work out.

I’m thinking about the fact that I may actually be able to earn a little more money doing this writing thing I love so much because I’ll have actual stretches of time to piece together coherent thoughts.

I’m pondering how many actual home cooked meals I may be able to feed my family now that I can wrap my mind around dinner before the 4:00 hour.

There’s a lot to be excited about this week. Well, there’s at least enough to hopefully keep me from chasing the bus down the street sobbing and wailing and tearing my clothes in utter and complete grief. I’d prefer not to gnash my teeth this week.

choosejoyThere’s a price to be paid when you choose to stay at home with your children. It’s an easy enough sacrifice when they’re very young and there’s work to be done in the house. It’s hard work and exhausting, but at least you knew you were needed during those long daytime hours. But now? Now that they’re going to be gone and my job is less seen, less cumbersome, the sacrifice feels more…sacrificial. What will I do?

I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

I’ll start by cranking the music and having a dance party. My “Kids have gone to school playlist” includes the following songs:

I’m a Survivor

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party



I Will Survive

Miss Independent


I’m going to hold my head up high and embrace this time because I honestly don’t know how long it will last. There may be another little one in our future. In fact, I rather hope that there is.

I may end up homeschooling again. In fact, I rather hope that I do.

I’m embracing this year as a blessing and with only a small amount of trepidation. I’m nervous about being alone. And I’m excited. I feel both emotions, and if ever there was a reason to jam, the conflicting emotions of freedom and loneliness was it.

So…what songs should I add to the playlist?

And who wants to jam with me?!


Insta-Wednesday: Summer’s End

This is our final week of summer break and I am a little sad. This summer went by way too fast. I knew it would and I’ve sort of mourned it all summer long. We are enjoying our final week of summer break. We’ve enjoyed lazy mornings, long swim sessions with friends, family movie nights and a visit to Busch Gardens to see the fireworks. We’re going to go to our first water park tomorrow and Friday will be spent at the beach.

I hate the idea of summer ending, and I can’t even think about the fact that all three kids will be starting school net week. Landon in kindergarten? It makes my stomach turn. He still likes to snuggle and give me kisses and hold my hand and nuzzle his nose into my neck. He can’t go to kindergarten because I fear it will steal the last vestiges of babyhood from him and I can’t even bear the thought.

Cry me a river, blah, blah, blah…

In honor of this week’s Insta-Wednesday, I am sharing my obsession with a new photo app called Rhonna Designs. And by obsession I mean I am mildly addicted. And by mildly addicted I mean I WAT TO ADD PITHY QUOTES TO EVERY PICTURE I TAKE!

I’m giving myself a week to binge on this new app, then I will SETTLE DOWN MARTHA and give it a rest.


Don’t hold me to that.

Peace out now.



One of my favorite people to text is Jenni because our back and forth’s get weird and random almost immediately. Our text’s rarely make any sense and that is what makes them all shades of awesome.



A poor night's sleep made it difficult for me to get out of bed. I had to pep talk my way to the kitchen and a strong cup of fespresso.

A poor night’s sleep made it difficult for me to get out of bed. I had to pep talk my way to the kitchen and a strong cup of fespresso.


They're cute. That is all.

They’re cute. That is all.


We enjoyed Busch Gardens Summer Nights excitement last night.

We enjoyed Busch Gardens Summer Nights excitement last night.


I think we effectively wore the littles out.

I think we effectively wore the littles out.

Love this quote.

"If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it."

“If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.”


Dear Minivan Makers Everywhere

I have titled this photo: Road Trip from the Back Seat

I have titled this photo: Road Trip from the Back Seat

There are five people in our family. I realize that in the grand scheme of familyhood this is not a significant number. Three children is less than four or five or six or twenty children. I wouldn’t classify us as a large family. We’re a regular-sized family of five…who love to travel.

Since gas prices have soared (Boo! Hiss!), airline prices have gone through the roof. This means that an average family of five cannot afford to fly anywhere without having to sacrifice a small puppy to the gods in hopes that money will start falling from the sky. And since I’m not generally in the habit of murdering puppies, this leaves me with no alternative but to teach my children the finer art of the road trip.

(Sidenote: Can we talk for a minute about the absurdity of the fact that it costs less for our family of five to fly from Florida to California than it does for us to fly to Little Rock? What the huh?!)

In the last two weeks, we spent about 43 hours driving as we visited family and friends in Missouri and Arkansas. So the equivalent of two days were spent inside our minivan, which, incidentally, currently SMELLS like a family of five spent two days cooped up inside. Excellent.

car2In general, my kids have become quite adept at traveling by car. We have a system. They play for a bit, look out the window, whine for good effect, then ask to watch a movie. But before they can watch a movie, they have to do two math sheets or a reading comprehension exercise. This is my barometer for how badly they want to utilize technology.

If they get hungry, I throw a bag of Cheez-its their way. Thirsty? A tiny little water bottle gets hurled at their heads. If and when all requirements are met, they are then allowed to shut their brains down and watch quality, educational movies such as Rookie of the Year and Teen Beach Movie.

Once upon a time I was staunchly opposed to the children ever watching TV in the car. When I was a kid, I read on road trips. I cozied up with The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins (Ah, Jessica and Elizabeth…I wonder what they’re up to these days?). I didn’t have the option of watching a movie back then.

I also laid out flat on the back seat with the seat belt juuuuust barely fastened around my waist and wasn’t stuck sitting straight up and down in an uncomfortable seat with the seat belt snugly tucked across my chest.

And I walked to school up hill both ways barefoot in the snow.


The point is, I quickly came to the conclusion that there is no reason to be a martyr for motherhood. If the kids wants to watch a movie, they can watch a movie and I will be thankful for the serenity of modern technology.

But 43 hours is a long time, which means there was a lot of time spent NOT glued to the tiny TV screens. Most of the time the kids do a pretty good job of playing quietly, drawing, listening to music or reading. But there are those long stretches of time when they ask every five minutes if we’re almost there, when they cry because a foot has fallen asleep or, my personal favorite, when they start car wrestling, an activity that always, without exception, ends with someone crying.

This is where I need the developers of minivans to step up their game. I’m here to offer a proposed to solution for parents everywhere who are relegated to cross country car trips inside the bowels of their minivans.


How about a partition between parents and kids? Just a thought…a mere suggestion! Think of it like a limousine, because we all know that a minivan is a limo for very small people. Limo drivers can raise a partition between themselves and their passengers allowing for some privacy. WHY HAS THIS NEVER BEEN DONE FOR MINIVANS?!

When the kids are getting particularly squirrely, parents could quietly and non-chalantly raise the thick, sound proof partition thereby cutting themselves off from the insanity. Of course, we would still need to be able to keep an eye on the monkeys in the back – safety first and all. A monitor on the dashboard would be connected to the camera inside the partition allowing the parents to keep an eye on the children.

You could even install a button that parents could push to hear what was going on in the back if they wanted. Or they could keep it muted and assume that everyone back there is just fine.

I see a number of benefits to this idea. First: SANITY! Kids could blast the soundtrack to Teen Beach Movie as loud as their little ears could stand it while Mom and Dad listen to music that doesn’t make their ears bleed. Kids could wrestle and cry and duke it out without giving Mom all that unnecessary grey hair.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I really need to list all the obvious benefits of this (brilliant) idea. It speaks for itself.

A rare moment alone in the minivan. Look how clean it is? This was taken BRT - Before Road Trip.

A rare moment alone in the minivan. Look how clean it is? This was taken BRT – Before Road Trip.

Now I realize that putting this out there means it could be stolen and someone else could make a lot of money off my idea. No worries. This one is for free internet! Someone, please, take this idea and run with it. When it comes time for us to buy a new van in a few years, if I find that they all come custom fit with a separating partition between front and back, I will consider that thanks enough.

You’re welcome, minivan drivers across the world.


You’re welcome. 

Insta-Wednesday: Arkansas Edition

I miss my bed. I love traveling and I love being with family, but there comes a time when you’re ready to be in your own home with your own routine and your own bed. I think we are reaching that point. It will be sad to leave – it always is. But home is a good, good thing.

But enough about that. It’s time for some Insta-Wednesday, a series of posts to fuel my ever growing addiction to iPhone photography and photo apps. Say it with me: GOOOOOOOOOOOO iPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY! YEAH!

I didn’t hear you…


Saying goodbye to our beloved St. Louis.


We got sweet time with friends when we picked up our boys from K-Kountry. 17 years ago this month, I met Melissa and Rachel. I’m so thankful for our continued relationships!


Air soft wars with friends. Classic.

Air soft wars with friends. Classic.


We have enjoyed ample amounts of snuggle time with our new nephew. That is, when we can wrestle him away from Papa.

We have enjoyed ample amounts of snuggle time with our new nephew. That is, when we can wrestle him away from Papa.


Swim time with cousins

Swim time with cousins

These two are two peas in a pod. Love them.

These two are two peas in a pod. Love them.


Tia is building up quite a cache of handstand pictures. I think I'm going to make her a mural for her wall.

Tia is building up quite a cache of handstand pictures. I think I’m going to make her a mural for her wall.