Join Me at the New Site!

We went live yesterday over at Kelli Stuart.com and I could not be more pleased with how it all came together. A big thanks to Alle McCloskey of Finding Eden Media for the hard work she put in to make that site everything I had envisioned it to be. It really is a beautiful space.

Join me there?

 

Please?

 

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Boyz II Men Were Right: It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday

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I’ve procrastinated writing this post. I don’t really know what to say that I haven’t already said. I’ve contemplated a million different ways to wrap up this blog that has been such a joy to write, but none of them felt right.

So I ate a little chocolate and hummed this Boyz II Men song softly as I’ve made my way through my morning.

I find it somewhat apropos that I am writing this final post with my sick daughter laying next to me on the couch.  I started this blog a little over six years ago as a means to document this crazy thing called motherhood. When I wrote my first post, I had a 4 year old, a 23 month old and a newborn. I was tired, I was overwhelmed, and I thought that my life would be tantrums and poopy diapers from the rest of all time.

I never thought I’d have a career.

I never thought I’d have the opportunity to travel and develop as a writer and creator.

I assumed myself unambitious, not knowing that I was simply hard wired to thrive on inspiration.

I didn’t know all the ways that blogging would enrich my life as a mother and a wife.

Honestly, when I first started, I thought blogging sounded stupid. Write about daily life? WHO WOULD CARE TO READ THAT!

Here we are six years later. Life is still funny, and a bit surprising. I’m still doing my best to raise these children without inadvertently pushing one of them to write a scathing “Mommy Dearest” memoir. Although this morning I did drag my wrestling and crying six year old out of the house and place him firmly on the school bus much against his will, which should give him at least a chapter’s worth of material to share with the world someday.

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Yay me…

It’s also a fitting symbol that my minivan, the one we purchased just a couple of months before I started this blog, is dying a slow and pitiful death. It won’t be long before she will need to be replaced by something…newer. Not better (still a minivan, yo!), but different. A fresh start to drive us both literally and figuratively into the future.

It’s like my entire life has become a symbol!

The new website will be a chance for to continue to expand and grow as a writer, as a wife and a mother, as someone who never wants to grow stagnant in life. There is so much still to see and do. So many opportunities to use the gifts and talents I’ve been loaned to bless and encourage others. Perhaps the biggest lesson this blog has taught me is that this life is so much more fun when it’s lived in service to others.

It’s not about me, and I would never want it to be.

So today will be the final post here on Minivans Are Hot. I shall drive my minivan into that goodnight, and when the sun rises I’ll find myself on a new path. Still in a minivan (hawt!), and with plenty of blog fodder to come.

Ugh…that sounds so cheesy, doesn’t it? 

In an effort to wrap this up, I’ve decided to share my Top Two favorite posts from each year I’ve blogged, and I’m hoping you’ll appreciate how difficult it was to choose only two posts from each year!

See you next week in an all new space, friends! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for cheering me on this journey.

 

2008

Literal Art and the Worst Toy Ever Created – In which my husband made a massive Daddy faux pas.

The Same, But Different – In which my husband bludgeoned a possum to death with a crowbar.

2009

The Master Cleanse: A Review - We tried The Master Cleanse. We failed miserably.

Can I Just Go Back to Bed? – The Haircut Heard ‘Round the World.

2010

Boy and Girl and a Cricket Makes Three – When sharing my love story with Lee, I mentioned the time a voyeuristic cricket had his way with me.

The Day we Spent $127 on Soap – Because Lee and I are dorks and can’t add.

2011

The Debate of Our Generation – The one where we try REALLY HARD to convince you that minivans are hot.

Don’t Go Disrespectin’ – Don’t mess with a mom in a minivan.

2012 – (I couldn’t choose two from this year – it was my favorite blogging year)

Hope is Slow – This post from Tanzania was a life changer for me. It’s still impacting me today.

Rise of the Planet of the Blue Monkeys – An open lunch box in the Tanzanian wild is a bad idea. Bad, bad, BAD idea…

It’s Like He Doesn’t Know Me At All – The day my husband dissed Target and invoked the wrath of the internet.

2013

Mom of the Year: Not Looking Good – In which I sent Landon to school in pants caked with Nutella, and I forfeited my Mother of the Year title.

A Bridge Between Here and There - I responded to my friend Shaun’s post and invoked the dreaded ‘S’ word. *gasp*

2014

Tenting with Shamoo – We went camping. In January. That is all.

Exposing the Real Issues in Sochi - This was an important post to me. I’m so thankful it got the traffic it did.

Even Gymnasts Have a Disney Side

One of the great privileges this blog has brought me has been the opportunity to work with great brands that I love. I have been very, very, VERY picky and selective over the years in who I work with, what kinds of posts I write for companies, and how often I write a promotional post. I’m glad that one of my final posts on this website will be for a brand that I know and love.

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Disney. Who doesn’t love Disney, right?!

Living in Florida has a lot of perks, one of them being our proximity to the Disney parks. The truth is, I can only take so much of a theme park in one day. After a few hours, I’m usually done feeling magical, which means living nearby is nice because we can pop in for a quick visit, hit up the attractions we enjoy the most, and leave before major melt downs occur.

That is what we call “Winning.”

Last year I had the honor of being invited to the Disney Social Media Moms event, where I learned so much more than I thought I would. I went to the event with a little bit of trepidation because I thought it would be all MAGIC and FAIRIES and LOOK AT DISNEY FROM EVERY ANGLE!

Even grown ups (especially grown ups?) enjoy showing off their Disney Side.

Even grown ups (especially grown ups?) enjoy showing off their Disney Side.

It was none of that. I left encouraged, inspired, and with the germ of an idea to start a new website. Fast forward ten months, and that germ of an idea is about to take root.

A few months ago, I was selected to take part in Disney’s new at home Disney Side Celebrations. I didn’t really know what this meant until a large box showed up at my door with a beautiful plum-colored American Tourister suitcase filled to the brim with Disney product.

Nobody does magic like Disney, eh?

A friend made Tia this super cute Frozen-inspired leotard with snowflakes all over it and "Let It Go" across the top. It is her new favorite.

A friend made Tia this super cute Frozen-inspired leotard with snowflakes all over it and “Let It Go” across the top. It is her new favorite.

The idea was to have a party in my home in which I, along with my kids and their friends, could show off my Disney Side. This posed a slight problem in that we had already hosted several home parties over the last few months, and I wasn’t really prepared for another one. I did, however, have Tia’s 8th birthday party planned at her gym, so I took my one stone and flung it at both birds.

(Do you love how I used that totally cliche’ figure of speech? Wasn’t that fun?)DisneySide4

I brought the Disney cups, and plates, the tattoos and games and spread them out on the table, and laughed when not only the kids, but also the adults started ooh’ing and aah’ing over the goodies. Disney brings magic in so many ways.

For the kids, the magic is in the now. The songs, the colors, the lights and characters that come to life.

For the adults, it’s in the nostalgia. Everything is new, and yet it is just as it was when we were young, and the early versions of ourselves get to fly again through the power of imagination.

As commercial as Disney may seem to some, for me it holds just the right amount of nostalgia and magic to bring out my own Disney Side. It must be all the fairy dust they sprinkle around the parks.

*wink*

Disclaimer: I was asked to be a part of the Disney Side at home celebrations, and Disney provided me with all the product necessary to throw a party. I was not paid for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Insta-Wednesday: The One with the Stories

I took a walk this morning because I live in Florida and February in Florida is a little slice of heaven. Cool in the mornings. Hot in the afternoons. Each day begs to be enjoyed, to be taken in and relished.

So I relished.

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I’m preparing to launch my new website next week. That will mean the official end of this website, and no kidding, I get emotional just thinking about it. I started going over my final post in my head today and got all misty-eyed, which made me want to eat Nutella in an effort to self-soothe.

Nutella is more than liquid crack. It is medication for the soul. 

Amen.

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I’ve seen several ads on Facebook this last month for a website called My Social Book, which takes all your Facebook activity in the course of a year and compiles it into a book. I’ve ordered two of the books so far, and I have to say I LOVE them. It’s like having a yearbook for each year I spent on Facebook. All the funny status updates, comments, birthday wishes and photos shared are bound together, and it left me misty-eyed.

Pregnancy hormones are no joke, you guys.

The Social Book from my first year on Facebook really gave me a bit of nostalgia for my blogging days of yore. The days when I had a plethora of hysterical stories to share of life parenting surviving young children. I miss telling those funny stories. Thank goodness we’re having another baby because BLOG FODDER!

My voice won’t change in the new site, but I am looking forward to the inspiration that comes with a fresh slate. Perhaps I will write less frequently, and most of the funny stories I have on the kids will have to be kept to myself, but there will still be plenty of life to share, plenty of laughs to laugh, and a lot of inspiration to soak in.

I’m excited. And I’m sad. I’m conflicted.

I want Nutella.

Here are a few photos from my morning walk. I sincerely hope you appreciate the close up of the bumble bee, because I had to get right on top of him to get that shot, and I am terrified of bees. I imagine that any neighbor who saw me taking these pictures must have assumed me crazy because I jumped and leaped and yelped every time a bee left his perch and flew at me. I was like the bee paparazzi, and they seemed entirely put out by me.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I’ll see you tomorrow and Friday, and next week we’ll roll out the red carpet in a new place.

Sad Panda

Happy Dance

I’M IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION!

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Don’t Worry Be Happy

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The life of a grown up is not nearly as romantic and fun as I dreamed it would be when I was younger. I didn’t understand the responsibility that came with being an adult. I didn’t know that endless laundry, a constantly messy house, bills, fatigue, arguing children, and everything else that happens day in and day out would be such a drag.

I tend to get bogged down in it all from time to time.

I’m annoyed with my dirty house. It was clean two hours ago.

I’m annoyed with the laundry. It’s never done.

I’m annoyed with the bills. They never stop showing up.

I’m annoyed with the responsibility. It’s unending.

I’m annoyed with the arguing. Why are you fighting about an invisible piece of pie?!

On and on the list goes until I feel like the Grinch, my heart two sizes too small, and my patience stretched thin.

On Saturday we were preparing to host a dinner, and as I cleaned the house again, I felt an actual scowl forming. Blah, blah, blah. Grumble, grumble, grumble. As I set the table, Tia and Landon came racing through the kitchen squealing and laughing hysterically at who knows what.

“Slow down,” I called after them. They didn’t hear the sound of my advice over all their joy and laughter. The nerve. 

A few minutes later, they came racing through again, high pitched squeals and delighted laughter cutting into my grumbly heart. “Guys!” I called, a bit exasperated. “Slow down, please. You’re going to get hurt.”

“We can’t help it, Mom!” Landon called. “WE’RE JUST SO HAPPY!”

And off they ran, still laughing, still squealing, still slicing through my grown up bam humbugity. And just like that, my heart swelled, and I remembered that life is fun if you let it be fun.

Thank God for kids to remind me.

Happy Monday, friends. I pray that it’s JUST SO HAPPY!

Stand with Ukraine

Yesterday, 25 Ukrainians died and over 200 were left bloodied and injured in the most violent day of protests since a stand off began in early December between the Ukrainian government and the people who oppose this government.

The rest of the world must take note of what is happening in Ukraine right now. This is, perhaps, one of the most important battles for freedom happening today, and the Ukrainian people need to know they aren’t alone.

To understand what’s going on in Ukraine, you have to understand a bit about their history. They are a people who have been fighting for their freedom for a long, long time. Throughout most of history, Ukraine has been a central battleground for freedom, and now they are a nation divided between East and West. The more Russian leaning West sides more readily with current President Viktor Yanukovich, while the more Ukrainian leaning East wants autonomy and freedom from the chains placed on them by Russia.

The protests began when Yanukovich moved away from the European Union in favor of accepting a massive financial bailout from Russia. This would, in effect, put Ukraine back into the Russian government’s hands, something that a majority of the country does not support.

These are good, peaceful, loving people who want nothing more than to live and operate under the banner of freedom. They want freedom from corrupt politicians like Yanukovich, who squanders money away while his people live with very little. They don’t want to be ruled, once again. They want freedom, and we need to let them know that we support them.

Please watch this video and share it with others. Let’s stand together with Ukraine to show our support for their quest for freedom.

Thank you!

Pregnancy Then and Now: A Comparison

It has been ten and a half years since my first pregnancy, and over six years since my last pregnancy, and as I reflect on how it feels to be pregnant yet again, I can’t help but compare and contrast those experiences. And so, without further ado:

Pregnancy, Then and Now

 

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I called just about every one I knew within 2.4 minutes of those two lines showing up. I even called my husband, while he was at work, and told him over the phone. So sweet of me, I know…

IMG_3141The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test I waited 48 hours to tell my husband and a month to tell anyone else outside of a few close friends. And most days I forgot about it at least four times throughout the day.

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I ran to the bookstore and bought a minimum of five books on pregnancy, sleep training babies, proper nutrition for pregnancy, and baby names. I followed every guideline, suggestion, and rule of thumb to a T.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I downloaded a pregnancy app on my phone, read the first few weeks, then never opened it again because who has time to worry about all that?! Vitamins, decent nutrition, and exercise. The rest of those things are mere guidelines…

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I ran to Babies R Us and looked at all the things I would need to welcome a baby. I was crazy overwhelmed and I compiled a list of over 100 items that I would soon register for.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I wondered if there was even a Babies R Us near by, and even if there was, I’m sure I’d get around to visiting sometime in the next 7 months. And also? I know that I really only need about 1/4 of those items now, so why stress?

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I couldn’t wait to start showing and to wear maternity clothes. It felt like forever before that happened, and I bought and wore maternity shirts before I really needed them because I wanted everyone to know that I was with child.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I started showing before the pee on the stick dried. I visited a maternity shop and gagged at the thought of wearing those clothes again. I will squeeze into my regular clothes for as long as possible, and after that, there’s always loose, flowy dresses. Amen.

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I could think of nothing but babies, babies, babies. I doodled names on scrap pieces of paper. I read books and magazines. I designed nurseries in my head, and I did all the research I possibly could on child birth.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I put in another load of laundry, scrubbed down the kitchen, and made beds. I haven’t thought of any names yet (although Tia is adamant on Elsa for a girl and Kristoph for a boy), and I plan on squeezing a crib into the guest bedroom. The baby will get it’s own corner in the house. Lucky kid…

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I planned on life stopping when the baby was born. I would stay home, and the baby would get routine morning and afternoon naps every single day.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I thought of all the places I would get to go with this baby in tow. I hope this baby likes sleeping in a car seat…

The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I felt in awe of the fact that I was carrying life. I treasured the thought of holding a baby in my arms, and couldn’t wait to meet the child that would be mine.

The fourth time I got a positive pregnancy test, I felt the exact same way.

Then the older kids started arguing, and I didn’t have time to dwell on it anymore…

The Big Reveal

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We went back and forth on when and how to tell the kids that we were having another baby. Part of me wanted to wait until we had heard, or seen, a heartbeat for peace of mind and the knowledge that everything was okay.

But times have changed since I last had a baby. Doctors no longer see you early on in your pregnancy (unless you are high risk, which I am not), and they don’t do early ultrasounds, and a heartbeat can’t be detected this early. So we were looking at having to wait until 12 weeks or longer to hear a heartbeat and I couldn’t do that for a couple of reasons.

First, “Secrets, Secrets are no Fun!

I really wanted my kids to have the privilege and fun of telling people that they are getting a new baby. I’m not good at keeping secrets like this one, so the thought of waiting an entire month longer before we could talk about it seemed torturous.

Second, I’m already showing. Baggy clothes only go so far. It’s warm in Florida, so it’s not like I can hide under multiple layers of clothing for a month. This secret was going to be obvious to everyone very shortly.

So we are taking this on faith, with lots of prayers that the Lord will sustain this child in my womb. The fear of miscarriage nags at me, only because of what that would do to my children. But I’m trusting that the Lord will preserve this child and keep him/her healthy, and if something should happen, we will walk that path as gently as possible.

So last week, when I hit the 8 week point in the pregnancy, we decided to let the cat out of the bag. Our kids love to play Hangman, so when they came home from school, we set up a little hangman game for them and told them it revealed a special surprise.

“Are we going to get ice cream?” Tia yelled.

“Are we going on a trip?” Landon yelled.

“Are we going to Italy as a family?” Sloan yelled.

Um…this surprise fit somewhere between going for ice cream and Italy, I believe…

I got cute video of the whole process, including the point when they solved the message and stared at me with wide eyes. “You’re…pregnant?” Sloan asked. “I don’t believe you.” He changed his tune when I pointed out the bump in my belly that I could not suck in.

hangman2I’m working on figuring out how to use iMovie, and I hope to put together a little clip of the reveal. It was fun to watch the kids then call their grandparents in Arkansas, and play hangman with my parents here in town to reveal the message.

What fun it was to celebrate that moment with my kids. They have been precious since finding out, all of them excited in different ways. At first Landon claimed to want a boy, but I believe his sister has coerced him to change his tune. All three now say they want a girl.

If similarities in pregnancy are any indication, then this could very well be a girl, because so far this pregnancy reminds me a lot of my pregnancy with Tia. However, if genetics continue to play a part, then this will most likely be another boy.

Time will tell.

For now I am treasuring these moments of excitement with my kids, and trying not to panic at the thought of starting this whole parenting thing over again. I look forward to seeing my children develop into older siblings with a much younger sibling in the house. What sweetness is in store…

And then the road bends

Two days before “K” left, I found myself feeling sick. My stomach hurt, my head hurt, and I just didn’t feel right. I quickly chalked it up to the stress of putting her back on a plane, and the insanity of a month-long adventure that left me feeling run down and overwhelmed.

Just to be sure, though, I bought a pregnancy test to see if there was anything…bigger going on.

Negative.

I tossed the stick in the garbage can and moved on, perfectly content with the knowledge that I was likely a little over-stressed. But there was this nagging thought in the back of my mind that kept rolling around, pushing it’s way out at night when the room got dark and the world quieted.

What if the test was wrong?

For years now (and by years, I mean yeeeaaarrrrssss) I’ve felt completely certain that our family was incomplete. The feeling was so strong that some days I would pull out of the driveway and look frantically in the back seat to see who I’d left behind. I’d look at photographs and feel so certain that someone was missing from them.

I knew the day I brought Landon home from the hospital that he would not be my last child. I just knew it. I was certain at the time, however, that I would not give birth to another child. So certain that I gave away all the baby stuff I owned except for the infant carrier and the crib because sentimentality wouldn’t give me permission to let go.

I was wrong.

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It’s no secret that my heart lies firmly with adoption, and my first choice would have been to further expand out family in that way. But for reasons I don’t fully understand, God had a different plan.

And don’t think for a single second that I haven’t mulled over the irony of the fact that we conceived a child while hosting a Ukrainian teenager in our home. I’m fairly certain God chuckled to Himself as He knit that one into the tapestry.

I digress…

After we put “K” on her plane, the feeling that something was up intensified. It was a combination of feeling queasy and exhausted, so I decided to check just one more time for peace of mind. Lee went to church that Sunday morning without me, and I ran to the store, picked up the cheapest test I could find, and came home. After I took the test, I started cleaning, and…well, I forgot about it.

I was so certain it would be negative again.

I was wrong. (I mentioned that already, right?)

That was nearly a month ago, and in these last few weeks Lee and I have slowly adjusted to this new development. It’s not that I didn’t want this, because there was a part of me that always liked the idea of having just one more.

There was another part of me, though, that didn’t really want to start from square one. And there is was a HUGE part of me that did not want to go through another pregnancy. Some women love pregnancy – I am not one of them.

So yes, the part of me that liked the idea of having a baby is excited. The part of me that longs to adopt is disappointed. These are conflicting emotions that will need to be worked through. I don’t doubt God’s plan for our family one bit.

I also don’t think that He’s done leading us down the path of orphan care. I don’t know what form that will take now, but I know this:

I am open to anything.

When we started our adoption journey, we did so on a very safe path. We wanted a child as young as possible, with as few issues as possible. It was what we felt we could handle. Now?

I wouldn’t say no to anything anymore. This is a freeing place to be, honestly. I am so open to whatever path the Lord leads us down, whether that be raising awareness, working with a ministry, taking trips to serve children in need, hosting orphans, fostering, adopting older or younger or special needs. Nothing scares me.

I feel free.

I also feel pregnant. For the time being, this is our path. We will continue to raise the children that the Lord has blessed us with joyfully and gratefully, and with all the wisdom that He chooses to reign down on us. And who knows? Maybe I’ll have the privilege of being an adoptive grandmother someday. Wouldn’t that be grand…

So that’s the story of where we are now. Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?!

(Come back tomorrow and I’ll share a bit of how our kids reacted to the news. I will also share my observations on pregnancy after having a loooooong break in between babies. Did you know at 35 I am considered of  ”mature maternal age?” HUMPH…)

Exposing the Real Issues in Sochi

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Tonight, the big torch will light, and another two weeks of the world’s top in athletics will wow and inspire us with their dedication, determination, and skill in athletics. I’m as excited as the next person to watch the Olympic Games. I love everything about the Olympics, though admittedly I’m always more drawn to the summer Games than the Winter.

But there’s a shadow over these 2014 Olympics Games, and I’m struggling to get excited. In the days leading up to these Games I’ve heard little about the athletes, and much about the condition of the hotels, the discomfort of the visiting journalists, and OH DEAR ME THE POOR SHIPMENT OF YOGURT THAT NEVER MADE IT.

*caps for dramatic effect*

Last year, I participated in three phone calls with the U.S. Department of State on the situation with the law banning Americans from adopting from Russia. I listened as bereaved parent after bereaved parent asked, “Where are our leaders? Who is fighting on our behalf?”

We were given answers that were pandering at best, most of them meant to deflect a question without an answer. Outside of Senator Mary Landreiu and a few of her colleagues, very few of our nation’s leaders had anything to say on the matter of Russian adoption. For months and months, the issue was pushed aside as parents who had already met their children, who promised to return and bring them home, languished with no answers.

So imagine the horror we all feel at this abandoned shipment of Chobani. Within hours of hearing that the yogurt would not be cleared, Senator Schumer fired off a strongly worded statement: 

“Chobani Yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian Authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the US Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes.” Senator Charles Schumer.

Where was this indignation when innocent children were caught in the red tape? Where was the quick response, the strongly worded rebuke, the balled fists and determined pride, when over 200 families who had already met and bonded with their children were told they could not return?

Forgive me, but this is a gross misdirection of priorities and it leaves me sick.

I’ve tried to ignore Yogurt-Gate, but when I turn away from that story, I’m accosted with the images of what appears to be a slew of uncomfortable, horrified journalists who have shown up to half-finished hotel rooms, yellow water, and bathroom situations that leave them red-faced and confused. I read these stories, and I see the tweets, and I can’t laugh. I just can’t do it.

I understand that the Olympics are a big deal, and that a certain level of service and comfort is expected when one visits the top athletic event in the world, but can I just offer a tiny bit of perspective? People live like that every day, all over the world.

Instead of making an entire country, and the wonderful people inside that country, the laughingstock of the world, why don’t you start doing the thing that journalists are supposed to do:

Why don’t you ask why?

Why do you think the conditions are so deplorable in Sochi?  An estimated 51 Billion dollars was spent on these Olympic Games, with an estimated two-thirds of that suspected to have been lost to corruption.

Please, everyone, stop making fun of the situation, and start asking questions, because the people of Russia are by and far good, kind, hardworking people. They don’t deserve to be laughed at, but by all means, question the man who serves as their “leader.” Expose him as the fool that he is.

I want to enjoy the Olympics this year. I really, really do. But I will not laugh at a group of people that I love, especially when they are operating under a man who is nothing short of a dictator. And I will not grow indignant at a missing shipment of yogurt when I know thousands of children are sitting in orphanages waiting on promises to be fulfilled.

I just can’t do it.