If it isn’t posted on Facebook, did it really happen?


I hardly remember how life existed before Facebook. How did I survive the hilarious moments of the day or stressful World Series games without my funny friends laughing alongside me?! I love my little online community…but sometimes I love it a little too much. I need a break from the world of the internet.

Plus, I’m kind of curious to see what will happen if I stay off of Facebook for awhile. If I stop posting, will the world stop spinning? Will life go on?!

If I don’t take and post a photo a day, then did that day even exist, or will I get lost in some sort of Matrix of suspended life? WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?!


I’m taking a week off of blogging and Facebook. I am a weak creature indeed, so I’ve deleted the Facebook app off of my phone, and I am turning off all notification so that I can stand firm on my resolve to stay away. I will still be checking email, working on my book and doing some editing work, but the vast majority of my days will be spent looking up and around instead of down at my screen. I’ll let you know next week if life truly does exist outside of the internet. 

In the meantime, if you didn’t have a chance to read my 31 Day series on becoming an author, I’d love for you to check it out. I loved writing this series. It was stimulating and exciting, and it reminded why I love this business of writing so very much.

So, friends – I’m off to take a walk, and I will leave my phone behind. What?! Walking without my phone?! What is that all about?!

I’ll see you all in a week! Wish me luck. *wink*

I’d wave hello but I can’t raise my arms

Confession: I am out of shape. Massively, wildly, annoyingly, ridiculously out of shape. Where working out and fitness was once an integral part of my daily routine, it has become a chore – something I dread and want to get over with…or just not do at all.

When the kids were younger, going to the gym was my escape. It gave me an hour or two a day away from them. I’d drop them off in the play area where they could have fun and I could sweat off a little stress. Or, um, sit in a dark corner and read a book in silence, which I did on more than one occasion.

Physical fitness is mental, too, you know!

Now that they’re older, I can’t really take them to the play area anymore. Which means if I want to work out, I have to squeeze it into the parts of my day that I don’t want to spend in the gym – like early mornings (I would rather sleep) or the evening (I’ve had way too much time to talk myself out of it). I’d like to say that when they go back to school, I’ll get back in the routine, but I’m afraid my brain has shut down the part that used to find working out enjoyable.

I’m trying to revive it.

Last Saturday I accompanied my neighbor to a boot camp with a trainer who came to our neighborhood and tortured pushed us with squats, push ups and running. RUNNING! It’s been long enough that I knew I should take it a little easy, but there is still a competitive side of my brain that’s active and well, and she did NOT like being left behind.

It’s Wednesday, which means that I can finally move without muttering four letter words under my breath. I feel victorious!

Thankfully my upper body remained relatively unscathed from our torture fitness session. But yesterday when a friend and I took our kids to Busch Gardens for what was meant to be an afternoon of fun, that changed entirely. Picture this: two adults, five children, one of which has a sprained (possibly broken) foot, a wheelchair, two strollers and all the bags that go with taking children to a theme park.

Now, add lightening and a torrential downpour. If you see me today and I don’t wave hello, just know it’s because I can’t raise my arms for all the dashing through the rain in flip flops, pushing a 50 pound kid in an umbrella stroller.

I mean…this is getting ridiculous.

PM-Blogger-Badges_FNLI told you a few months ago about how I joined forces with Pretty Muddy as a means to get back into shape and have a little fun doing it. So I haven’t really started training, yet. At all. Seriously not at all. I mean, the race isn’t until December and I only need to run 3.2 miles so I just thought I’d procrastinate a bit because I HATE ALL THE RUNNING!

I excel at procrastinating. It’s a gift.

After this week, though, I think maybe it’s time to put in a tiny bit of effort. So in an effort to stop embracing laziness, I signed up for MyFitU…a week ago. I plan to start using it today. Or tomorrow. Soon. I’m going to start using it soon.

Maybe if you join me, we can do this together? MyFitU has teamed up with Pretty Muddy as their official online personal trainer. As a result, I get to offer my readers a promotion for 50% off ANY MEMBERSHIP YOU CHOOSE. That’s an awesome deal! This offer can be applied to the 1, 3, 6 or 12 month plans, which means the more you commit to the program the more you save.

MyFitU is a great concept in that they take your overall health statistics and put together a personal plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals. The only thing MyFitU cannot do for you is make you get online and log in your daily activity.


MyFitU offers a comprehensive workout plan to help you maximize your workouts. Based on your weight and activity level, you will be given a daily caloric intake to aim for and you have access to hundreds of healthy recipes to help you acheive your goals.

Seriously, it’s the cheapest personal trainer you’ll ever sign up for!

So, does anybody want to join me? If so, visit MyFitU.com and sign up. When you get to the check out enter the promo code PRETTYMUDDY50 for your 50% off discount. Then come back and let me know if you’re going to give it a try. And go ahead and ask me if I entered my activity in for the day. I will happily accept the accountability.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off take a little more Ibuprofen and attempt to stretch out my screaming muscles.

Disclaimer: As part of the Pretty Muddy blogger team, I received a three month membership to MyFitU free of charge. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with both organizations as clearly I need someone to push me out of this lazy funk.

French Parenting Vs. American Parenting


From the article “Why French Parents Are Superior,” written by Pamela Druckerman originally posted in The Wall Street Journal Online.


“Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. “For me, the evenings are for the parents,” one Parisian mother told me. “My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time.” French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves.

I’m hardly the first to point out that middle-class America has a parenting problem. This problem has been painstakingly diagnosed, critiqued and named: overparenting, hyperparenting, helicopter parenting, and my personal favorite, the kindergarchy. Nobody seems to like the relentless, unhappy pace of American parenting, least of all parents themselves.”


“Could it be that teaching children how to delay gratification—as middle-class French parents do—actually makes them calmer and more resilient? Might this partly explain why middle-class American kids, who are in general more used to getting what they want right away, so often fall apart under stress?”

“American parents want their kids to be patient, of course. We encourage our kids to share, to wait their turn, to set the table and to practice the piano. But patience isn’t a skill that we hone quite as assiduously as French parents do. We tend to view whether kids are good at waiting as a matter of temperament. In our view, parents either luck out and get a child who waits well or they don’t.”


From “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD,” written by Marilyn Wedge, originally published in Psychology Today.


“In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?

Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological–psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems withdrugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.”


I considered writing a whole post on these articles about how I would tend to agree with the parenting philosophy of the French. They have a lot of things right and I would even argue that children with stricter and more well defined boundaries are probably more enjoyable to be around. But more than me talking too much, I thought it might be more productive for us to have a conversation. So let me know your thoughts! Have you read these articles? What do you think about French parenting vs. American parenting?

Do you think the French are on to something here?

(I’ll go ahead and get the conversation started in the comments.)


Ready, Break!

I like to call this Portrait of an iPad.

I am on technology overload this week and I’ve hit the burn out zone, which can only mean it’s time for a much needed break.

Sometimes the constant noise leaves me feeling emotional, unsure of myself and altogether irritable so I’m just going to take a few days off to collect my thoughts, get a little rest, clean that mystery stain on the couch and try to solve the issue of the ants in the bathroom.


In the meantime, I’ve seen some really amazing posts online this week. I will leave you with the words of those who are wiser than I am and will hopefully come back next week a little more rested and a little less grouchy.

Shaun’s post on why bigger crowds are less compassionate rumbled through my head all week and gave me much pause for reflection.

He also launched the new and improved Compassion Bloggers site and it’s clap your hands awesome. You should check it out!

Becke’ strung together words in the most beautiful way yesterday nearly leaving me breathless. She is ridiculously talented.

Sophie made me laugh out loud (LOL? No…) with her exciting new heights of under-acheivement.

McKayla Maroney rocked her vault leaving me a little stumped as to how on Earth the judges could have given her any less than a perfect score. Perhaps they are robots, incapable of emotion? Her post vault reaction also made me wish I could bring her home with me and put her in my pocket just so I could pull her out and have her jump up and down and say “Yay,” every time I needed a little cheering up.

Angie Smith wrote about her table and managed to make me cry in the process.

The Olympic Swimming Team’s cover of Call Me Maybe makes me so very happy. It will make you happy, too. How cute is Missy Franklin?!

That’s it for me this week. I’m off to take the kids to the park, buy some school supplies, hopefully take a nap and spend a little time just being quiet today. You know, I remember a time when the internet wasn’t around, when there weren’t 52,000 TV stations to watch and when the only thing that tweeted were birds.

Because I’m that old.

Does anyone else ever feel like they’re on sensory overload? No? Just me?


I’m looking for Jiminy Cricket

jiminy_140x143Disney makes it look so easy.  You wish upon a falling star and anything your heart desires will come to you.  But even Jiminy Cricket realized that it took more than wishing for a dream to come true.  You have to listen to your heart and follow.  Let your conscience be your guide.

Of course, I try not to take theological guidance or direction from an animated cricket, but I do believe there is a nugget of truth buried in there.  But from my point of view as a believer, I believe my Jiminy Cricket my conscience to be the Holy Spirit.  It is this still small Voice, the Voice of God Himself, that I must listen to.  And it is this still small Voice that I often ignore, or worse yet, simply don’t hear at all.

Life is noisy.  Bills, responsibilities, work, commitments – all of these contribute to the noise.  And sometimes the noise gets so loud that it’s difficult to hear the Voice.  But there are moments when the Voice breaks through the noise.  Usually these moments are relatively quiet moments – in the still of the morning, or late at night, when the noise of life is in a brief slumber.  It’s in those moments that I’m reminded that wishing upon a star is not really going to get me far.  I might need to get up and start walking toward the star instead.

Lately, Lee and I have felt stirrings within us.  The moments come at different times for each of us, but the thoughts, dreams and ideas are the same.  Some of the stirrings require small, but meaningful, planning and action on our parts.  For those of you that know Lee and I well you know that planning isn’t, ahem, our strong suit.  We tend to fly by the seats of our pants and, while we always have the best of intentions, this means that many big plans get dropped along the way.  We’re working on this.

Other stirrings, however, will require a significant amount of prayer, hard work, diligence and faith.  And the faith part?  It’s a doozy.  I have personally never been much of a skeptic.  Faith, in it’s simplest form, comes fairly easy to me.  I’m not one to question or doubt.  In some ways, this is a very good trait.  But other times I have to remind myself that it’s necessary to think critically and not operate on blind faith.  In other words, I sometimes have to make myself question the concept of faith so that I can better defend my faith.  If that makes any sense at all….

All that to say, some of the stirrings within my own soul require a depth of faith that I haven’t yet grasped.  A complete, life altering, Here Am I Lord type of faith.  It’s the type of faith that may require me to be uncomfortable.  I may have to sacrifice some of my comforts.  I might even need to let go of some dreams and desires.

Can I do it?

I recently read this post from Shawn Groves.  It only further spoke to my already softening heart.  If my life were a home movie, what would it look like?  Hmmm…

So I’m not being totally cryptic, we’re not considering selling all our possessions and moving to far east Siberia to live in a cabin and start a slavic revival.  No need to worry!  We are, however, trying to open ourselves up to the What If’s. 

What if God called us to far east Siberia?

What if God called us to serve in missions?

What if God called us to go serve a meal to the homeless in downtown St. Louis?

What if God called us to adopt a child?

What if God called us to have another child?

What if God called us to rise in the early hours of the morning and pray over our children instead of sleeping in?

What if God called us to move to small town USA simply to minister to our neighbors?

What if God wants us to stay right where we are and continue to serve those around us quietly and effectively?

What if God wants me to drive my smokin’ hot minivan with pride all the while pouring His Truth’s into my children’s hearts as I shuttle them from here to there? 

The bottom line is this: We want to be ready for the What If’s, no matter what they might be.  Lee and I each have hopes, dreams, desires and vision.  Some of them line up and will be easy to implement – some do not match entirely and will require joint prayer.  But we want to stop ignoring the whispers that have grown louder over the past few months.  We want to quit talking and start doing.  Which takes planning.

*sigh* If only Jiminy Cricket could serve as our family manager…

What We’re Up To


It’s summertime.  And the livin’ is easy…

But I’m not gonna let the livin’ be lazy.  My kids get up at the crack of dawn.  It’s not unusual for us to be up, fed, dressed and ready for the day by 7:30 – not because I want it to be that way, you see.  I would give a limb for them to sleep until 8:00 just once.  Heck, I’d be thrilled if they slept until 7:00!  So with everyone waking up so early, what on Earth will we do with ourselves all day everyday?  This week we started our summer schedule and built in to every weekday is “learning time” from 8:00-9:00.

It looks a little like this:



And Landon usually looks like this because I make him leave the room and play quietly by himself while the older kids work…something he’s not overly fond of.


This time is being spent on their Russian homework, Tia’s English Alphabet (poor girl, we’ve spent so much time on the Russian that she doesn’t know her English letters at all), Sloan working on his summer packet from school, math, reading and writing in their journals.  It’s actually going really well.  The kids are able to get all of their work out of the way early which frees them up to play the rest of the day.

We set a reading goal for Sloan this summer.  If he reads 10 books, we’ll go to Chuck E Cheese.  If he reads 20 books, we’ll go to the Magic House.  If he reads 35 books in English and 5 books in Russian we will spend the whole day at Six Flags.  So far he has completed one book and is chomping at the bit to go to the library to check out new books.

We’ll do that as soon as I pay off our overdue book fines.  Ahem… 

I think I’m going to like this schedule.  It’s tough, for sure.  I would much rather let them watch TV all morning so I could play on the computer, but I know this is a more productive way to spend these early morning hours.  It means I will have less time to blog, which is probably not a bad thing.  It will mean I need to be much more disciplined with my time, which is definately not a bad thing.  But it will also mean that I will be able to send Sloan to 1st grade prepared and Tia will finally know the difference between the letter H in English and the letter H (which sounds like N) in Russian.  It’s kind of important that I teach her that…

What are your summer plans?

Wordless Wednesday: The Time Out

The two year old has morphed into a two year old seemingly overnight.  Where he once was compliant and sweet natured, he is now often beligerant and feisty.  He is experiencing discipline to its fullness here lately, including his first ever time out. 

Stubborn Resignation

Stubborn Resignation





Deep Thought

Deep Thought

Is that remorse? Uh...I'm not sure that it is.

Is that remorse? Uh...I'm not sure that it is.

It's a good thing he's so cute.

It's a good thing he's so cute.

Happy Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday!

Intentional Parenting

In the few years that it’s been since Lee and I become parents to one child, then a second and finally a third, we’ve learned a LOT about this journey called parenting. A LOT.

And from what I hear we’ve only scratched the surface. *deep breath*

One of the things we are learning in large amounts right now is the idea of intentional parenting.

This is not a new or ground breaking concept.  Plenty of people are parenting with intention and Lee and I were doing so to an extent before the year 2009 – but this year has definately been a year of growth for us in our parenting.

While we have been intentional in the past about teaching our kids basic, common sense virtures like sharing, kindness, obedience, etc…We’ve learned this year that we need to step up to the plate and really dig into this parenting thing. 

Before, so much of our parenting took place only in the now.  We were controlling the behaviors in the hopes that the immediate future would be impacted and changed, but we weren’t necessarily thinking of down the road.

Not that we were completely oblivious to the people our children would someday become.  Like any parents, we often dream of who our children will grow into.  We have hopes, dreams and ambitions for them.  And the number one prayer of our hearts since the day any of them entered this world was that they would grow in wisdom and stature and they would find favor with God and man. 

But back to intentional parenting.  This year has been about learning how to parent our children with the future in mind.  Why do we want them to obey immediately?  Certainly immediate obedience makes our day run much more smoothly.  But beyond that, a child who is taught to respect and obey his parents immediately will grow up with a respect for authority and a drive to complete tasks in a timely fashion.

But it’s a not a blind obedience that we’re asking for.  Before this year, I used to think that because I said so was the parental charge for action.  It was the acceptable excuse and was never to be questioned.  Ever.

Now, while I still believe there is a time and place for because I said so, I try harder to give my kids a reason for their obedience.

You need to put your shoes on right away because if you don’t, we won’t be able to get to school on time and you will have to walk into your classroom late and that would be embarrassing.

You need to pick up your toys because if you don’t, mommy or daddy might trip over them and get hurt.

You shouldn’t run in the store because someone might not see you and you could cause them to fall and get hurt or break something.

We’re trying to instill in our kids a moral reason why they need to obey.  Not just demand that they obey.  We’re also reinforcing to them the fact that when they do obey immediately, things will go well with them.  Life is much smoother for a child who knows how to respect the authority of adults.

Life is also much easier for adults who know how to respect their authorities.  Isn’t it?

You see, we’re trying to be intentional about teaching our children how to live responsible lives.  I require them to make their beds simply because it’s a responsible thing to do.  We ask them to clean up their toys simply because they need to take responsiblity for the things that are theirs.  So that someday, as adults, they will know how to live lives that are responsible and effective.

So that I won’t send off two boys into marriage and stick their poor wives with slobs who don’t know how to help out around the house (Lee is a great example for our boys in this area). 

And so I don’t send off my daughter off to be a wife and leave her with no clue how to take care of a home, cook a meal, care for others.

It’s intentional, you see, this thing called parenting.  And it’s hard.  It’s really, really hard.  It’s so much work.  It takes so much energy and time.  And my kids are still young.  God help us when the game of life gets more complicated than cleaning up a little Play-Doh and picking up LEGO’s.

This concept of intentional parenting is very deep.  And if you’re interested in more, I highly recommend the study Growing Kids God’s Way.  It’s an excellent study on the the why’s and how’s of training up morally responsible, enjoyable, godly children.

And now I am off to intentionally get my younger two out the door to a gymnastics class.

For the love of money

Thanks to everyone who participated in the conversation yesterday regarding vaccinations.  It’s an important topic and I’m glad people are talking about it.  And thanks for being so respectful of one another and of the differing opinions.  It was nice to read the different perspectives without feeling any tension.  You guys are great!

On Wednesday, I took the kids to Target to buy Tia a new stroller for her baby dolls.  An overzealous neighbor boy broke hers and I promised her a new one if she did a good job getting her ears cleaned out.  And since she didn’t scream (thank you Vercet), she got the much coveted stroller.

Sloan had seven dollars in his wallet.  Lee and I don’t give the kids an allowance, but on occasion we reward them for work they do around the house, particularly when that work is done from a serving heart.

And, oh my, that seven bucks was burning a hole in his pocket.  So, after picking out the perfect baby stroller, we headed to the Star Wars isle.  Did you know there is little to nothing you can buy for seven dollars?

Sloan found the toy he really wanted, but it is 25 dollars.  So he put it down and looked around and said, “Well, I guess I’ll just buy something I don’t really want because I’m ready to spend my money.”

At that moment, a huge light went off over our heads and a voice blared over the loudspeaker, TEACHABLE MOMENT, TEACHABLE MOMENT!!!!

Okay, not really.  But wouldn’t it be nice if that happened?

I did however, get down on Sloan’s level and explain to him the wisdom in saving his money so that he could buy the thing he really wanted.

“But that will take too long,” he protested.

It took a little convincing, but I finally helped him understand that waiting and working to earn the money for something he wanted would be better than wasting his money on something he didn’t really want.  What a lesson, huh?  I need to remember that myself sometimes.

So, we came home, Sloan’s back pocket still burning with unspent dollars.  Last night, Sloan rushed to his room and “cleaned” it up – which means he tossed all the loose toys into the closet and shoved the door closed.  Because that’s how we roll in the Stuart house…

“Can I have a dollar?” he asked.  Sound the alarm! TEACHABLE MOMENT, TEACHABLE MOMENT!!!

“Son, did you do that because it needed to be done, or because you wanted money?” Lee asked.

“Because I wanted money,” Sloan replied oh so honestly. 

Lee then tried to explain to Sloan that there are certain things we do because we’re supposed to.  But I could see Sloan get more and more dejected and confused, and I could understand why.  You see, once, maybe twice, we have given him money for cleaning his room.  It wasn’t because he cleaned his room, but because his heart was so pure and sweet and we were rewarding him for that.  But we obviously didn’t do a good job explaining that to him, so I could see why he would feel frustrated with us last night.  But then it got worse…

“I LOVE money, though.  I just want it so bad!” he cried.

Yikes.  We have some training to do.  Teaching kids the proper way to think about and handle money is a little daunting.  While Lee and I don’t spoil our children by any means, we are blessed to be able to provide them with not only comforts, but special privileges as well.  We try to make them aware of the fact that Lee and I work hard for our money and we work to spend it in the proper manner. 

I know as they grow older, there will be more opportunity to have a discourse over how and where it is wise to spend money, but we want to start training them now.

We also talked with Sloan about giving a portion of the money he earns back to God as a tithe.  Oh, he was not happy to hear that.  We had a lot of discussion about it this morning.

What are some things you’ve done to train your children in finanaces and the responsiblity that comes with money?  Nicole, could you leave the name of the piggy bank you guys use in the comments?  I would like to get one of those.

I think it’s important to not only model to our children the correct way to spend, save and give money, but also to give them the opportunity to practice.  So Lee and I are working on some projects that Sloan can do around the house to earn more money.  Today, I’m going to have him and Tia wipe down all the baseboards in the house.  Which, wow – I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this earlier!  I hate cleaning baseboards!  Is it bad that I’m excited about the benefits of teaching this life lesson?  Ahem

So, please, help me out.  What are some ways we can teach our children to be responsible in earning, saving, spending and giving money?  What are practices that have been effective for you?

Can I Just Go Back to Bed?

*updated pictures below – it’s not any better. 

I woke up this morning to a very quiet house.  It was 7:00 and I thought, wow – today’s gonna be a good day.

I was wrong…

As I was getting dressed, Sloan came in to my room and said, “Mom, look at Tia’s hair.  It’s short!”

He cut her hair off.  He cut it off.

I just started crying and sent them out of the room.  I know it’s just hair, but I love her hair.  I love pigtails and braids.  These are the things I love about having a girl.  And I’m just so sad. Here are pictures for now.  I’ll post more after I’ve taken her to the salon and had them do whatever they can with it. Pray for me!

Too bad the mullet is no longer in style

Too bad the mullet is no longer in style


Why couldn't he have done this on the other side?

Why couldn't he have done this on the other side?


The bag of her hair that I'm crying over

The bag of her hair that I'm crying over

I was hoping that blogging about it would make me feel better. But it didn’t.  In fact, looking at the pictures has brought on fresh tears.  *sigh* I guess I’ll find this funny someday?

Bad Dorothy Hammel haircut. Notice how the right side is significantly shorter than the left?

Bad Dorothy Hammel haircut. Notice how the right side is significantly shorter than the left?


She's going to have to get used to head bands.

She's going to have to get used to head bands.