Don’t Worry Be Happy


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!

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…

This Brilliant World – Keep Your Eyes Open

Image by Tammy Labuda Photography

Image by Tammy Labuda Photography

I have this habit of constantly watching the world around me. It may be the writer side of my brain that finds human behavior so fascinating, but truth be told, I can hardly get through a day without observing something that makes me laugh, makes me shake my head, makes me sigh or swoon, or just makes me want to keep watching.

I have a particular love for the funny, though.

Take, for example, the time I was at the gym stretching in the hallway, and a man walked into the corridor, stretched his yoga mat out on the floor, then proceeded to try and kick up into a handstand, only to fall flat on his face with a rather loud OOF! He rolled around like a turtle for a minute before calmly standing, rolling up his mat, and walking away as if nothing happened.

I saw you, sir, and it made my day.

There was a rather unfortunate incident in a Target parking lot when a man got out of his car in shorts that were too short and took several…um…exposed steps before he…felt the draft?

That one scarred me.

And let’s not any of us forget Air Butt. *shudder*

Months ago, I saw a woman trip over a crack in the sidewalk as I sat at a stoplight. She then proceeded to turn and berate the sidewalk, finger wagging furiously, for several seconds. That one made me giggle.

Yesterday I watched a man in a wheelchair, with a Radio Flyer wagon tied to the back, push himself furiously across four lanes of busy traffic. It was a most impressive feat, and I watched in awe at his tenacity…and bravery.

And don’t think I’m only laughing at the expense of others. I provide ample laughter, myself. There was the time I tripped over a wire and sprawled belly first onto the sidewalk. That was fun.

Or how ’bout that time last week when I looked back over my shoulder for a split second and plowed into the corner of a grocery aisle. I liked that.

This world, man. It’s full of fun, every turn providing opportunity for a chuckle, a giggle, or a full out guffaw.

Happy Thursday, friends. Look around today, and observe all the happiness this crazy world (and the people in it) have to offer.



Tenting with Shamoo

If anyone ever tells you that sleeping in a tent is comfortable, go ahead and assume that person a liar. If they tell you that having the proper equipment is all that stands between you and a good night’s sleep in a tent, kick them in the shins and flee.

We camped last weekend.

Our friends Kevin and Jenni let us borrow some of their camping gear for this trip, and I foolishly thought that having nice gear would make the entire experience okay. On the second night of no sleep, however, I may or may not have cursed nature and all it’s components.

Here’s how it went down…

We arrived at the campsite and began pitching our tent. Just as we tossed the rain shield over the top of the tent, the rain began to fall. Then the sky sobbed for 45 minutes. I think it was nature’s way of trying to warn us of the consequences of camping in January, but we misinterpreted the storm as “memory making” and “character building.”

My mountain man. Photo courtesy of my friend Karen.

My mountain man. Photo courtesy of my friend Karen.

Who wants to play in the cold rain? These crazy kids, that's who...

Who wants to play in the cold rain? These crazy kids, that’s who…

The rain stopped, we finished setting up (including mopping up a small lake that had developed inside our tent). Super duper…

Then the temperature began to drop plummet. The #1 redeeming quality of camping absolutely must be the fire pit. A crackling fire on a cold night gives you the false sense that this camping thing was a pretty darn good idea.

It also helps if you’re surrounded by good company. Kids running through the trees, breathless and pink cheeked, free from the confines of electronics, while adults laugh and joke adds a luster to the whole “living in the great outdoors” thing. This is the part of camping that I would boldly place under the column labeled FUN.


Then we went to bed.

Jenni had given me her sleeping bag, which just so happened to be named Big Agnes, along with a thermal pad to go under it. The thermal pad actually tucked into Big Agnes and kept me warm from underneath. When I climbed into Big Agnes that first night, I had high expectations. “I will heretofore sleep like a baby,” I thought as I nestled in deep, and indeed, I quickly fell asleep that first night.

I woke up at 2:00 when a raccoon (one of satan’s sidekicks, undoubtably) tossed a metal pan off the picnic table behind us. I heard his evil laugh as he ran back into the trees. It was at this point that the whole sleeping thing eluded me for the rest of the trip.

Lee slept next to me in a different bag – a bag not named Big Agnes, which I think may have been part of the problem. He also slept on a thermal pad that seemed to be made of tin foil, so every time he moved (which was all. night. long.) it sounded as though he were thrashing on a pile of crumply aluminum. After the demon raccoon woke us all up, Lee left the tent to go to the bathroom. It was at this point that I realize the temperature had fallen significantly. My body was toasty warm (thank you Big Agnes) but my eyelashes were icicles.

This sweet girl hung in there with us crazy Americans.

This sweet girl hung in there with us crazy Americans.

Lee came back to the tent and began the process of settling into his sleeping bag. My husband is 6’2″. When you zip him up into a thin body bag, there’s bound to be a few issues with comfort. He pulled the zipper all the way up to his neck to get out of the cold, then I heard him thrashing. I looked over at him, and his gaze was fixed intently on the ceiling as he flopped around like a whale on a beach.

After a couple of minutes, I leaned over and hissed, “What the heck are you doing?! Can you please be quiet??” He looked at me as he continued to flop, his arms pinned to his sides, and the thermal tin foil under him shattering the silence of the campsite. A moment later he squirmed and tugged until his arm broke free of the bag and he thrust it in the air, his pants clutched firmly in his hand.

He looked at me as though he’d just won a prize. “It’s hot in this bag!” he stage whispered.

Then we both started laughing so uncontrollably we couldn’t breathe, and neither one of us slept the rest of the night. Nor did we sleep the second night, which was less comical than the first, but who’s keeping score?


So blessed to call these women friends.


This kid enjoyed the camping experience more than anyone else I think. He slept well and he got to play ball all weekend long. So this was basically his heaven.


A zipline = Good fun


She had such a great attitude all weekend.

In all, it was an awesome weekend, despite the loss of two night’s sleep. The kids had a blast, even “K,” though she wanted to make sure we were definitely planning on returning home to our warm beds on that second day when the temps hovered around the high 30’s and low 40’s.

Will we tent camp again? Definitely. Camping is a bit like childbirth, I’ve decided. Give yourself enough space and time from the experience and you forget just enough of the pain and turmoil to want to do it again. As long as I’ve got Big Agnes, a cup of strong coffee, and my husband to laugh at, I’ll be just fine…

Gone Camping

We are leaving shortly for a weekend long camping trip with friends. Our car is packed to the max, which kind of makes me feel like we’re doing camping wrong, but whatever. We’re not hiking to camp, so BRING ON THE CREATURE COMFORTS!

In lieu of an actual post, I thought I’d leave you with a little Jim Gaffigan for your weekend viewing. You can watch this, then laugh at us. Our sweet “K” has no idea what she’s in for…which makes this oddly even more exciting.

Happy Weekending!


Lost in Translation

IMGP9007I can’t even begin to describe how fun it is to have someone in my home who speaks the language that I love so deeply. I am thoroughly enjoying speaking Russian again, though it is just rusty enough that I stumble over just about everything I say.

For example, yesterday I told “K” that I was a writer and pointed to my desk. “That’s where I sit and pee all day,” I said.

“I write” and “I pee” are veeeeeery similar in the Russian language, just FYI. Mix up the tenses and you have yourself a bit of an awkward sentence. Luckily, I caught myself and corrected the dialogue quickly, but not before she and I had a good laugh.

Communicating the very basic things has become the most humorous. How to use the shower, what to do with toilet paper (our countries deal with this issue differently), personal hygiene situations. These are all conversations that I have never had in Russian before! Heck, I haven’t had to have some of these awkward conversations in English with my own child – now I’m communicating them in Russian with a teenager who barely knows me.

Thank goodness she has a good sense of humor, and she is extremely laid back.

I caught a glimpse of a few of the emotional wounds she’s experienced yesterday, and once again, I wished my language were better. I know enough to hear the heartache, but not enough to hold onto it. There is time, though. Time for her to develop a greater sense of trust. Time for me to listen more. Time for us to work together to place a balm on these emotional wounds.

We went to Super Target yesterday. Everyone should experience Super Target with a seventeen year old who’s never seen a supermarket in her life. She was silent, wide-eyed, and completely overwhelmed. I had her try on shoes, and she looked at all the selections, then looked at me completely flabbergasted.

Ah, Target – The International Love Language of Females.

Today we’ll go clothes shopping. She needs shorts – you know…because it’s going to be 80 degrees in Florida this weekend. I also plan on introducing her to Chick-fil-A, because I believe she needs to experience the blessed chicken sandwich, hand breaded on a bun with two pickles and a dash of the Holy Spirit.



rainbowloomShe’s experienced the Rainbow Loom kit already, and our boys subjected her to The Wobble last night. It’s a dance. There are really no descriptions for it – you should just look it up.

Tonight we’re going to watch a movie. I’m not sure which one yet. I’m trying to decide what would be a good, introductory movie for someone with limited language. Elf? Too crazy, too soon? We’ll see…

This sweet girl doesn’t quite know what to do with herself here, yet. We’re going to change that, one ridiculous dance and movie at a time.


Ghosts of Christmases Past

I took my kids to see Santa yesterday. This is probably our last year with everyone believing, so I wanted to mark it well. As we walked away from the jolly man in red, I asked Landon how the encounter went.

“He smelled like beef and cheese,” he responded. “He sits on a throne of lies.”

And then I fell over laughing. Every family has a “funny one,” right?

And for those of you who are thoroughly confused as to why that’s so funny, I leave you with this clip from the movie ELF, and I order that you go watch the movie in it’s entirety today. Do not go another day without having seen the entire film.


Christmas 2004 – A traumatized Sloan


Sloan and Tia in 2009 with “Dyed Moroz,” the Russian Santa.

Christmas '08 033

Christmas 2008 – A traumatized Landon


Christmas 2013 – the last when they all believe. *sob*

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to one more year of magic and laughter…

The Ultimate Betrayal

Guys, we have a problem. On the grand scale of “Problems the World Faces” this is, like, a .5. It’s a small problem when placed against the backdrop of all the things that could go wrong.

But it’s still a problem.

My van is falling apart. A moment of silence, if you please.

It’s a funny thing, paying off a car. When I submitted the final payment, I felt an awesome sense of victory. I felt like I was sticking it to the man.

We enjoyed a WHOLE year of no payments before the heat shield on my engine went kaput and we needed to sacrifice one child’s college fun to fix it.

(Sidenote – I actually have no idea if it was the heat shield that went bad. I can’t remember what happened. I just remember that when the mechanic told me the issue and how much it would cost, I felt like he was explaining the mechanical failure of a space shuttle – not my van. So I’m sticking with heat shield for the purposes of this blog post.)

That event began a slow descent into car maintenance hell. New tires. New belts. New this and that.

Shattered windshield.

A few months ago, the check engine light came on. I pretended I didn’t see it for awhile before finally taking it in only to find out the fuel level sensor was going bad. It didn’t take a $60 diagnostic test to figure that out given the fact that my fuel gauge is never accurate.

Then there was an oil leak.

Then they told us how much it would cost to fix the fuel sensor, and we’re thinking it would be more beneficial to just get a new car than sink that much into this current one.

That’s when it all hit the fan.


Lee came home and scoured the internet for new used cars. I peeked over his shoulders and do you know what he was looking at?



“You don’t really need a van anymore,” he tried to reason with me. “You could just get a 7-passengar SUV instead.”

The betrayal! For shame.

Of course, I did consider it briefly. I considered the cool points I’d get back if I got rid of the minivan and went back to traipsing around town in a slick SUV, no longer neutered by my four-wheel metal office.

But then practicality set in. I have three children, all of whom are on track to be rather tall. If Sloan doesn’t slow down, he could easily reach 6 feet by junior high.

I tried to envision him and his tall, lanky friends crawling into the back of a 7-passenger SUV, and all I saw were broken windows and a lot of inappropriate jokes.

Someday I’ll experience release from the confines of the minivan. Someday I will pull up to the curb in a saucy little car that screams “hip” and “cool.” I’ll probably be a grandma by that time, but whatever.

I’ll be one hip granny.

Until that time, however, I’m afraid the minivan is the practical choice for me. They even have vans with built in vacuum cleaners now. WHHHAAAAA?????

Ten-to-one a mom came up with that idea. I’m still waiting for minivan makers to adopt my brilliant idea. And when they do, I expect them to give me a free van for the duration of my minivan driving years.



So there you have it. I may be in the market for a new minivan in the coming months, and my husband is a traitor to the minivan community. I still love him, though. If for no other reason than for his brilliance in this movie.

Peace out.

Thankful for the shattered start


Thanksgiving week started out like this in our house. A shattered back window thanks to a wayward baseball sent us crashing (pun intended) into the holiday season with a tiny bit of shock, and a good amount of laughter.

If you ever need a chance to work on not sweating the small stuff, have your five year old throw a baseball through the car. Works like a charm.

My first thought upon walking outside and seeing the damage was horror. I couldn’t help wonder how much this was going to cost, and as we head into Christmas, unexpected broken windows were not high on my list of “things to throw money at.” As I stood in the driveway, mouth agape, Landon walked up to me, his eyes wide and horrified.

I looked down at him and he broke. “I DID IT!” he wailed. “IT’S ALL MY FAULT!!”

And just like that I realized the window didn’t matter – his fragile five year old heart did. I scooped him up and set him on the back of Lee’s car and hugged hard and tight letting him know that car windows are meaningless and easily repaired. I communicated as much love and forgiveness as I could in that one tight hug, because he needed to feel it. He needed to know that a silly accident would never affect my love for him.

As Lee swept up the broken glass, I comforted my distraught child who felt a world of guilt on his tiny little shoulders, and I was reminded, once again, that my reaction as a mom to these types of accidents has the potential to make or break my children. This is the place where they need to know that they can mess up – they can break windows, kick holes in the wall, knock plates off the table, and stain the carpet, and never be far removed from a hug and the assurance of love.

As we swept up the glass, we showered him with grace. It was an accident. It’s no big deal. We have insurance. All is well. And slowly, we pieced him back together and made him a little more whole.

By the end of the day, the insurance company had come out and replaced the glass at no charge, and the only thing lost was my favorite STL Cardinals sticker. And this one incident sent us into Thanksgiving with grateful, thankful hearts. Thankful for grace, and love and forgiveness. Thankful for a God who lavishes grace on us when we make mistakes, when we accidentally make a mess. Thankful for family and life and children who are healthy enough to throw a ball through a window.

I am so thankful for grace, when it is shown to me, and when I have the wherewithal to slow down and show it. Oddly enough, that broken window set us up for a weekend full of gratitude. Had Landon not shattered that glass, I’m not sure my eyes would have been quite as open to the beauty of a Thanksgiving weekend filled with laughter, with visitors, and with enough grace to cover a lifetime.

I will forever be grateful for that broken window, and for the boy who continually teaches me to love graciously, wholly and fiercely.  

More scenes from Thanksgiving:




Girl cousins

Girl cousins

My aunt and uncle have done missionary work in Jamaica for years. Red is their Jamaican "son," and he fit right in with our crazy crowd.

My aunt and uncle have done missionary work in Jamaica for years. Red is their Jamaican “son,” and he fit right in with our crazy crowd.


Our 2nd Annual Family Kickball Game

Our 2nd Annual Family Kickball Game


The men of the group

The men of the group

The whole crew. 31 family members, plus 5 of our dear friends from St. Louis who recently moved to Boca Raton. How can I not be thankful for this?!

The whole crew. 32 family members, plus 5 of our dear friends from St. Louis who recently moved to Boca Raton. How can I not be thankful for this?!


Day after Thanksgiving. Beach. Perfection.

Day after Thanksgiving. Beach. Perfection.

Pure magic, this boy.

Pure magic, this boy.


Yes, there are.

Yes, there are.

So tell me, friends – How was your Thanksgiving?!


Insta-Wednesday is BACK!

My dog ran off this morning and came home covered in crap – LITERALLY. She’s an old woman, but when she sees a pile of poo, the puppy in her comes out and she cannot resist. So I spent a solid fifteen minutes chasing her around the yard with the hose, and now I smell like a wet, crappy dog.

You’re jealous of my glamorous life…

Insta-Wednesday photos for you to view while I go clean up.


Tia’s cheering square at her meet Sunday. Sweetness.


We served a Thanksgiving meal to people in need at our church’s food pantry Saturday morning. 


You know…just monkeying around. And still loving’ our St. Louis Cardinals!


I just don’t even have words to describe this photo…


Lovin’ this Florida Fall Weather!

And last but not least – video evidence that my growing addiction and need for strong caffeine is warranted and justified. This was shot before 7:00 am, and before I’d completed my first cup of coffee. Their energy exceeds mine by miles….